Facing a Diagnosis of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

by on March 7th, 2015
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Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

Maybe you have been researching, and have found some pretty scary stuff on the internet. Perhaps you are more worried than you were when started looking, because those statistics are pretty alarming, and if you read “rare, aggressive and deadly” one more time you’re going to punch somebody. What good news could there possibly be?

Actually, there is plenty. Most importantly, that Inflammatory Breast Cancer is survivable, and those dire statistics are anywhere from two to five years old. Much has changed in the world of IBC, and Planet Cancer in general. Many of the articles you may have seen online were written several years ago. Sometimes the information presented is blatantly inaccurate, published by people who have not adequately done their research.

Is IBC scary? Yes. It is rare, about one to five out of a hundred breast cancers. It is aggressive, but so are the treatments used to fight it. Deadly? It can be, if it’s not diagnosed properly. There’s no doubt it’s a nasty cancer, and it does kill. And, many times, it does not. I am an Inflammatory Breast Cancer survivor, and I know of several others. There are twenty year plus survivors out there.

When survival rates enter the dialogue, five years is the usual measure. This means that people who were treated even three years ago don’t factor into those figures. When I was treated for Inflammatory Breast Cancer in 2007, huge strides had been made in treating my disease within the previous two years. One of these was the drug Herceptin, which is now standard treatment for Her2+ cancers. New drugs and approaches are constantly being introduced and tested. I have several friends who are part of what we call “the class of 2007″. We are changing the statistics, but you wont see those on paper for another couple of years.

First, let me clear up some misinformation I’ve found on the internet. IBC is not always diagnosed at Stage Four. It is seldom diagnosed at Stage One or Two, because the aggressive nature of the beast is that by the time you know it’s there it’s at Stage Three or more. That may sound scary, and it is. But Stage Three holds the possibility of emerging on the other side of it cancer free. I know several long term survivors personally, and as time passes I am becoming one of them. Stage Four breast cancer isn’t even what it used to be. People beat that too. Those stories don’t get much press, unfortunately. IBC is not “a new kind of breast cancer” either. It has been around for decades, just missed a lot until some savvy doctors picked it up on the radar.

People survive this disease more and more because a lot has been learned about it, new drugs are being developed, and the treatment protocol is somewhat different now than for other breast cancers. It’s a tough protocol, but I rode that wave and you can too. I’ll address ways to do that in another article.

There are long term Stage Four survivors around as well. I have a friend I met in the “chemo salon” three years ago who had been surviving for two years when I met her. She’s still there, four years later, getting her weekly herceptin (thank you Genentech!) and still having her life.

So, the gloom and doom is old news. The good news is that there are more and better treatments than ever before for facing down Inflammatory Breast Cancer, and we survivors are legion.

Hang in there!

More on this topic from Elizabeth Danu:

Understanding the Treatment Protocol For Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Riding the Chemotherapy Wave

Using Imagery to Enhance Standard Cancer Treatment

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