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Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory Breast Cancer
by: James Pendergraft

It is critical for women to make sure that they are always in good health. However, there are plenty of potential problems that lurk in the background that can victimize women anytime. One of the most dreaded diseases that is a threat to women is inflammatory breast cancer.

The mention of the term “breast cancer” is already enough to make most women cringe at the haunting difficulties that the disease brings. Because the disease is a known killer in women, it becomes very important to try to avoid it, or if affected already, to endeavor at minimizing the symptoms that one may feel.

What is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

Inflammatory breast cancer is a type of breast cancer that is characterized with the breasts looking red and swollen. The cancer can attack women at any age. What is more alarming is that unlike the regular breast cancer or other breast-related problems, the disease is not characterized by lumps. This characteristic makes detection of the disease very difficult because it cannot be detected by mammography or ultrasound.

The Symptoms of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is known to be an aggressive type of breast cancer. In the disease, the cancer cells blocks the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. The disease got its name from the inflammation that is exercised by the breasts, resulting in the reddish color. The disease is known to manifest itself in as quick a time frame as overnight.

The following are the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer:

* The breast becomes harder or firmer.
* The affected breast is warmer compared to the unaffected one.
* There is an itching on the affected breast.
* The lymph nodes swell, especially under the arm or in the neck area.
* The breasts may have bruises that do not heal.
* A sudden and unexplained swelling of the breast.
* Pain in the affected breast.
* The reddened area in the affected breast is characterized by the thickness and the texture of orange.
* There are skin changes on the affected breast.

Inflammatory breast cancer is also classified into three stages. This is to make treatment better: The symptoms characteristic to a particular stage requires the kind of treatment fit for an infection in that stage.

* Stage 3B: In this stage, the cancer has spread to the tissues nearest to the breast, especially in the chest wall.

* Stage 3C: This means that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the collarbone. It also means infection to areas near the neck as well as under the arms.

* Stage 4. This is the most advanced stage of the cancer. In this stage, the infection has spread to other organs like the lungs and liver. It may have spread also to the bones.

Treatment of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Chemotherapy is still the best means to kill the cancer. This is commonly done before surgery. On the other hand, other methods include radiation therapy to kill the cancer cells. Because radiation therapy is more specific in targeting the cancer cells, it is now gaining popularity fast as a good method for treating the cancer.

Breast Health: A Chocolate Lovers Dream

I am a professed choco-holic! I could have chocolate morning, noon and night and never get tired of it. I especially like dark chocolate and cocoa. Well, turns out Chocolates containing over 70% cocoa provide a number of antioxidants, and much more. In fact, a square of dark chocolate contains twice as many as a glass of red wine and almost as many as a cup of green tea properly steeped. These molecules slow the growth of cancer cells and limit the blood vessels that feed them. So go ahead and have that square of “dark chocolate” daily guilt free! 😉

Breast Health- Alcohol and Breast Cancer Connection

According to Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, PhD. drinking any kind of alcohol, even red wine, ups the chance of breast cancer. Just one drink a day will increase your lifetime risk of breast cancer by 5 percent, and it goes up from there, with six daily drinks raising risk by a whopping 40 percent. In fact, alcohol is a culprit in nearly 11 percent of breast cancers, say British researchers who followed more than a million women over a 7-year period. While the research is clear on the risk of alcohol, the why behind this risk is much less clear.

The current thinking holds that alcohol throws a monkey wrench into estrogen metabolism. Since many breast tumors are fueled by this hormone, when alcohol increases estrogen in the body, it also increases breast cancer risk. As a double whammy, alcohol saps the body of folic acid by increasing how much of this B vitamin leaves the body in urine. Folic acid plays a key role in producing new cells to replace damaged cells throughout the body, and it also guards against DNA damage that can lead to cancer. When alcohol reduces the body’s folic acid supply, this cancer watchdog is no longer on guard against breast cells that could become cancerous. Supplementing with 400 mcg folic acid (the amount in a multi) and increasing your intake of folic acid¬–rich foods such as nuts, beans, whole grains, spinach, brussels sprouts, bananas, and oranges may help offset the increased risk of breast cancer that results from the occasional drink.

The Breast Health Diet- Vitamin D


Vitamin D is practically the Swiss Army knife of anti-cancer tools; this vitamin keeps cancerous cells from multiplying, tells tumor cells to kill themselves, and even helps produce a tumor-suppressing protein that blocks malignant cell growth in breast tumors. Yet many Americans may be vitamin-D deficient. Getting enough vitamin D can reduce the risk of breast cancer by 30 percent, according to Harvard researchers who compared cancer development in women with the highest versus lowest vitamin D blood levels. For all these reasons and more, many experts urge all adults to supplement with at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day.

The Breast Health Diet


When researchers took a close look at the beverage choices of thousands of women, they found that women who regularly drank green tea lowered their risk of developing breast cancer by 12 percent. The more years and more often these women drank tea, the stronger was their protection from breast cancer. Tea contains powerful antioxidants, with the superstar being one called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Green and white teas, in particular, are packed with EGCG, although black and oolong teas also have some. EGCG deactivates harmful free radicals before they damage DNA and trigger cancerous changes.

But if you have breast pain or fibrocystic breast changes, you might consider avoiding methylxanthines, the family of caffeine and caffeine-like compounds in caffeinated coffee and tea (and in small amounts in chocolate). These can encourage painful breast cysts, says William Dunn, MD, from the West Michigan Cancer Center. If you’re quitting coffee and tea, be aware that it can take a few months for the pain to decrease or go away completely, notes Katherine Lee, MD, from Cleveland Clinic’s Breast Center.

Delicious Living-  Victoria Dolby Toews, MPH

Beauty Is A State of Mind: Sex After Mastectomy

Embracing your sexuality — even when hairless, throwing up and left ravaged by a mastectomy.

It’s a common perception that only older women get breast cancer — old enough that they don’t really care if they ever have sex again. And boobs? Whatever, take ’em… They already nursed their kids and the ta-tas are just getting saggy anyway. Right?

Wrong! I’m 26, and I have cancer in my breast. And no matter what age, women still want to be treated like the gorgeous creatures we are, even when hairless, probably throwing up and left ravaged by a mastectomy.

When I discovered my lump at 24, I was nearly scoffed out of a male breast cancer specialist’s office, who said I was statistically too young to have it. After some surly resistance on my part, I had my unidentified lump removed, but technically he was right: I didn’t have breast cancer. I had a vascular tumor called angiosarcoma: A very rare and nasty cancer that normally shows up in the heart or bone. And here I am now, two years later with different doctors, a new diagnosis and a 70 percent chance of dying within the next two years.

The months after my diagnosis were a painful blur. My boyfriend, Adam, doggedly called me beautiful and made sure that I was able to believe it. He was so caring and supportive when my oncologist said I would likely not have children because of the chemo. Instead of complaining or bolting for the door when my doctor said no sex because of the infection risk, Adam said, “I will wait for years. I don’t care about sex; I just want you.” I know that if our roles were reversed I would have done the same thing for him, but sometimes it’s still surprising to know that a person can love enough to put up with everything that you have to go through. I know he puts on a brave face for me every day — and I have seen him break down when he didn’t know I was looking. My bald head is covered in kisses, pats, rubs and fuzzy hats whenever he comes home or if I look sad or feel ugly. That is commitment. I wish everyone had a relationship like ours.

Here is the skinny on the treatment of rare cancer in the boob (I call it the slash, burn and poison method): Single-agent chemo, mastectomy, radiation and more chemo. If that sounds familiar, it is. Oncology hasn’t changed much since the 1950s, although the drugs that treat the side effects have.

On chemotherapy, the first hair to go is on your naughty bits (less painful than a Brazilian bikini wax!). Later your boyfriend will use duct tape as a makeshift lint brush for your head. You’d better load up on laxatives before infusion or you WILL suffer the consequences. And eat delicious, fattening foods right before chemotherapy, for you will never again be tempted to eat them. I used food aversion to my advantage; it makes dieting so much easier. Now if I even think about cheesecake, ham and gnocchi, I dry heave.

That was the chemo, but I cannot really put into words the grief that I felt when I got the call from the surgeon telling me I had to have a mastectomy. My PET scan showed that the chemo was doing nothing, and the surgeon decided he wanted the tumor out in two days. Now, it is one thing to know the date for something and mentally prepare yourself; it is another to have someone spring a mastectomy on you. I tried to think to myself, “Okay, whatever, it’s a boob. It sucks but hey, it’s not my arm right?” but I wasn’t ready. It felt like I was burying my youth.

Adam took many pictures of me that last night with two breasts—wig and makeup fashionably in place — while I pranced around in heels and lingerie. I’m happy we did that. It was like a small requiem for my breast.

After the surgery I had a village of visitors: Co-workers and family, and Adam was there day and night. He slept in the same hospital bed as me, crammed up against the bars of my bed and my morphine drip. He teased me that if I got lost in the desert I would walk around in clockwise circles because I was lopsided (morphine makes everything funny). When I was home, he emptied the tubes that drained fluid from my body and dressed my wounds. The first time he saw my chest he cried a little. I cried a lot. He kissed my incision and said he “was a butt guy anyway.”

It was so emotionally difficult to lose a breast. I’m not a very emotional girl, but it got to me. I kept feeling that I was supposed to be whole and beautiful and that I wasn’t anymore. I felt broken and mangled.

I was expecting pain after surgery, but there was very little. It was akin to the soreness the day after a hard workout. What I was not expecting was the total lack of feeling. The left side of my chest is totally numb. I can’t feel touch, pressure or pain. It was sort of a blessing in disguise because I didn’t have to feel anything when they removed the skin staples and largely felt nothing when radiation made my skin resemble cooked bacon.

It took about a month to get used to my body post surgery. There is no preparing for how much of our sexuality we have tied to our breasts. At first I cried a lot and didn’t want Adam to see me naked. I couldn’t even imagine sex — even though I wanted and needed it. I felt self-conscious; I kept thinking, what if he’s turned off? What if he can’t have sex with me because I’m unattractive? I think at that point I wouldn’t have been able to endure rejection or the idea of him not being able to get aroused at the sight of my missing breast. My best friend bodily dragged me out of the house to Nordstrom’s where I was fitted for a prosthesis. It was her gift to me, a new fake boob. I will be eternally grateful.

After I had a fake breast, things got a lot easier. I learned that dressing up in the bedroom was the only way I felt comfortable having sex. I had to pretend that I was whole again. I wore a long, dark movie-star wig, a barely-there skirt and a button-down top (fake breast included) the first time we had sex post chemo and mastectomy. I looked like a hot catholic schoolgirl and pretty much mauled Adam the second he got out of the shower. The role-playing helped a lot with the uncomfortable parts.

Before all of this cancer drama started, I liked to dress up in sexy bedroom outfits and drive Adam nuts. I think for both of us it was easy to pretend that by dressing up it was just like it used to be. From there we evolved into less theatrical sex, and I started to not wear the breast form as we became more comfortable with my new topography. Adam is such a fantastic partner that the awkwardness I thought would be there wasn’t. Believe me, if your partner can battle cancer with you he’s a keeper. Anyone that can get aroused by a bald, single-breasted girl is worth his weight in gold.

Sometimes it’s difficult to view myself in the mirror and not sigh. I hate how my hair has grown back in curly. I’ll go to adjust my cleavage and realize I have nothing there. Finding clothes that don’t draw attention to my concave chest can be a challenge. I can’t have reconstruction for 2-3 years because of the reoccurrence risk of my type of cancer (it would be terrible to have to take apart a reconstructed breast). So for the time being, I’m stuck with mastectomy bras and breast forms, which seem to have been designed by idiots — and for people who still have breasts! I need something to fill my concave cavity, but the forms themselves are concave on that side, expecting a small breast to fit in. And the bras are all the grandma-type that look like they’ve been shaped together out of waffle cones. News flash, designers: Women who have lost a breast still want to be able to feel sexy! Is that so much to ask?

Still, I have learned a lot of things I might never have known. As women, we have a tendency to nit-pick at the small stuff like love handles and big thighs, but when it comes down to it, we are not a sum of our parts. Being beautiful really is a state of mind. Physical beauty is fleeting, but if you maintain the idea that you are a goddess, you can be. Some makeup, a short skirt and heels can make you a tiger in the bedroom — even if you are missing a breast. The things I have learned this year about beauty and strength were not easily garnered, but I consider what has happened to me a gift. I can still turn heads walking down the street… I just have a little secret.

Written by Tracey Carpenter

Pink Is For Men Too!

Pink is for Men Too

by Allison Norris

This year Breast Cancer Awareness month didn’t just have women wearing pink. We saw NFL players, hockey players and many more joining in the efforts to raise awareness in fighting Breast Cancer.

This month of pink can often overlook men’s risk for breast cancer. Although breast cancer in men accounts for only 1% of all breast cancers diagnosed annually, it has some distinct concerns warranting attention. It is generally a cancer that affects older men, usually between 60 and 70 years old.  In the past, men’s prognosis was often worse due to late detection and sometimes complete unawareness of the disease, but recently this has been changing.

The reasons men get breast cancer aren’t always apparent, as the male breast does not have as great a role in society or functional use. What some people don’t know is that much like during the female menstrual cycle, men do have regular hormonal fluctuations which affect them mentally and physically. Considering this men should do self-breast exams regularly so as to detect the subtle changes in their breast tissue.

In a study in June 2009 by U.K.’s National Cancer Intelligence Network they found men are 40% more likely to get cancer than women. Prostate cancer is the number one cancer killer in men and there is a lot of focus on that reproductive organ – perhaps letting breast tissue be all too easily overlooked in men. Just as with women early detection is key in the successful treatment.

Cancer prevention for both genders includes general healthy living such as regular exercise, eating a balanced and healthy diet, not smoking, getting proper amounts of sleep, and receiving regular preventative medical care.

Here are some tips for men (and women) to help in the prevention of breast cancer:

Self Breast Exam – as discussed already this is very important. Men should do this at least quarterly but it is recommended to set a schedule once a month on the same day to ensure you don’t forget.

Antioxidants – there is much debate about the help Lycopene and other antioxidants actually achieve in cancer prevention but consistently the data shows they do no harm. So the suggestion medically and alternatively is one of “why not? it can’t hurt and it might help.” This includes consuming foods such as tomatoes, watermelon, guava, grapefruit, dark chocolate, blueberries, and cranberries. Getting these foods in their most natural, raw form is best to capture the most potent antioxidant effect.

Supplements – Saw Palmetto is a great herb for prostate health. Black Current Seed oil is a wonderful source of Omega-6 fatty acids. This Oil has GLA (gammalinolenic acid) which in a 2004 study was shown to prevent the growth of breast cancer cells, especially in the presence of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is not only an amazing antioxidant but it has been shown to lower your breast cancer risk by 63% when taken on a regular basis from foods.

Trimming the Fat – A 2007 study out of Seattle showed that obesity in men more than doubled their odds of death in prostate cancer and that “obesity in the year before diagnosis more than tripled the odds that the cancer would metastasize.”

Trusting your body – Since early detection is key in early treatment it is essential we pay attention to the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle signals our bodies are speaking about our health. Go for regular physicals, listen to the aches and pains, have a relationship with your doctor that is open and conversational. As a chiropractor I work with many on a more frequent basis than their medical doctors. Because of this I do have conversations about health topics other than back pain. Trust the healthcare providers in your life and ask them questions.  We are here to educate.

Continue to spread the word on Breast Cancer Awareness by doing the above, supporting your loved ones through the above tips, wearing pink, and staying educated on the subject. Go Pink!

Dr. Norris is a Doctor of Chiropractic who lives and practices in Lakewood.

Is Having Breast Cancer Suddenly “In”?

Recently I ran across an article written by Journalist Beth Brody where she talked about her journey with Stage ll-B Breast Cancer. What struck me about this article was not just her personal  struggle and of once not being invited to a friend’s party because the wife thought her visibly ill look would diminish the “happy mood” of the event, but  one question that I too ask every October, “Is Having Breast Cancer Suddenly In or Cool?”

Every year in October we can not escape the onslaught in the Media from celebrities,  breast cancer organizations and seemingly a sea of products with the familiar pink ribbon endorsing breast cancer research. And, all of a sudden it’s  ok to be part of the “In or Cool” group of women fighting and surviving breast cancer.  But what happens on October 31st  when all the lights,  black tie events, fund raising, glitz and glamor is gone? Those that are in the battle know all to well that it is  24/7, 365 days of constant battle of hope over fear and daring to believe that one day there will be a cure.

Yes, it is most certainly great to have a national conversation and health-care initiatives about breast cancer! We gain strength and hope from hearing about how someone else is fighting the battle. But what it is not, is just a 30 day event. We have to keep that same drive and passion that so many seem to have during October,  every day! And, I couldn’t agree more with Beth Brody, and  Betty Rollin’s NY Times article about how she had recurring breast cancer and it was a time of loneliness that made her miserable that Cancer is definitely a club that nobody wants to join, it is not  “cool, hip or in”.

We must continue listening to stories of hope and the over sharing of  TMI (to much personal information) to help ourselves and help someone else. This website is dedicated to educating women about early detection 24/7, 365 days a year. Not just for the 30 days in October. And, to anyone who is not invited to any event because they have cancer,  it is truly their loss! This is not a friend that is capable of going on this journey with you.