I’ll give you three reasons for concern…
1) The 5-year survival rate of all breast cancers is nearly 90 percent, but the 5-year survival rate for IBC patients is FAR lower – only 40 percent
2) In the early stages, IBC is much less likely to be accurately diagnosed compared to other forms of breast cancer
3) Awareness of the early symptoms is the key to survival
So if you know the symptoms of IBC, and you tell your daughter, and she tells her friends, and her friends tell their mothers, and their mothers tell their sisters, and their sisters tell their aunts and uncles and fathers and cousins and grandparents…if that chain is set into motion by every one of us, lives will be saved.
Not quite what you expected
Say you’re in the shower and you feel a swollen spot near the skin’s surface on one of your breasts. When you dry off you notice the spot is red, tender and warm to the touch.
Would you think breast cancer?
Probably not. In fact, most doctors don’t think breast cancer either, so these typical IBC symptoms are often diagnosed as a simple infection and treated with antibiotics.
The swelling and redness is caused by blocked lymph vessels in the skin. And that’s very bad news. As Dr. Barbara Smith of Massachusetts General Hospital told the Boston Globe, the lymphatic vessels are “the highways out of the breast to the rest of the body.” And that’s one of the key factors that makes this cancer very dangerous: It spreads so quickly that by the time it’s diagnosed it’s usually metastasized.
Here’s what else we know about IBC:
- Most IBC patients don’t feel a lump – the breast cancer symptom they search for in self-exams
- Mammograms don’t detect IBC
- Statistics show that women under the age of 50 and black women appear to be at highest risk
- Most cases of IBC are diagnosed at stage III (locally advanced) and stage IV (advanced to other organs)
Glimmer of good news
There’s no way around it – IBC treatment must be aggressive and usually involves chemotherapy, followed by surgery and radiation.
That’s the bad news. And frankly, there is precious little good news.
I found one study that showed how whole-body FDG-PET/CT exams were able to accurately detect just how much the disease had spread. But FDG-PET/CT scans are costly and put a patient at greater danger. When I checked in with HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., he pointed out that PET scans use “labeling agents” that are radioactive.
Dr. Spreen: “Adding a CT scan is insult to injury – a whole-body CT, I’m told, is equal to something like 350 standard chest film x-rays…that’s a LOT of radiation (plus the PET scan radioactivity). Seems to me the best shot, if you’re going conventional at all, is assume metastases are already there and treat accordingly, saving the huge cost and considerable radiation insult.”
And here’s where Dr. Spreen offered the one glimmer of good news in the treatment of this disease: l-glutamine.
L-glutamine is a key amino acid that’s essential to immune function. According to a study conducted in the late 90s, when l-glutamine is given with chemotherapy, such as methotrexate, the amino acid significantly reduces chemo toxicity.
That’s it. That’s the end of the good news. After adding l-glutamine to chemotherapy, there’s only one way to bring better news to the IBC story: Get the word out. Please forward this e-Alert to every woman you know so future IBC patients might have a better chance of catching this disease when it’s most treatable.
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
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