Email has been making the rounds warning about a rare type of breast cancer undetectable through self exams or mammograms. It's called inflammatory breast cancer.
Mary Wilson, a sales person at Channel 6, keeps one finger on delete while reading e-mail but a recent message about inflammatory breast cancer caught her attention.
"It was really kind of startling," she says. "I didn't even know that this existed."
IBC can't be detected by mammogram or a monthly self exam. It spreads when a tumor has access to the lymph channels of the skin. Instead of a lump, it grows in nests or sheets throughout the breast.
Symptoms include:Redness and swelling of the breast
Itching and pain
Thickening of the skin
Nipple retraction or flattening
Dr. Edibaldo Silva, an oncologist with the Creighton University Medical Center says he has seen a few dozen cases of IBC.
Dr. Silva says some physicians initially treat the condition as an infection. If antibiotics don't clear things up in a week, women need to be their own advocates.
"These things have to be brought up by patients," Dr. Silva says. "And I think the more they do, the more physicians will think, well let me ask. Let me get a second opinion. Let me send you somewhere else where they may be able to give you a hand."
Mary Wilson wouldn't hesitate to push for that.
"Knowledge is power," she says. "I've passed this on to other women just to say another thing to look for. Be an advocate for yourself because you're going to be the strongest advocate."
Patients used to consider inflammatory breast cancer a death sentence but with a combination of chemotherapy, mastectomy and radiation, many patients now live five years or more.
Anyone with questions can call the Susan G. Komen Foundation's toll-free helpline at 1-800-I'M AWARE.
Additional information is also available online. Click here.