Buddy Check 7: Inflammatory breast cancer's unique challenges - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Buddy Check 7: Inflammatory breast cancer's unique challenges

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

On the 7th of each month, KWWL takes time out for "Buddy Check 7", all aimed at early detection of breast cancer.  Most often, women discover a lump that leads to a cancer diagnosis.  But there's one rare form of the disease that presents unique symptoms.

Yearly mammograms and monthly self breast exams are two of the most important tools women can use to catch breast cancer early, so it can be treated right away.  But there's one rare form of the disease, called inflammatory breast cancer, that can't be caught by traditional screenings.

"It frequently looks like an infection.  The breasts get swollen, reddened, tender," said Dr. Robert Savereide, Covenant Clinic surgeon.

That means inflammatory breast cancer can easily be misdiagnosed.  

"Frequently patients are placed on antibiotics for a while.  And if they don't get better, they should be referred on to a breast clinic where they're evaluated," said Dr. Savereide.

The only way to know for sure if your symptoms are cancer is to have a breast biopsy.  So it's recommended you see a doctor if you notice anything unusual about your breasts, including thickness, heaviness or enlargement of one breast, tenderness or pain, or a flat or inverted nipple.  The chances are still small that those signs will mean you have inflammatory breast cancer.  But if it is IBC, getting the diagnosis quick is key, since the cancer is aggressive.

"The treatment really is chemo therapy to begin with.  This is a tumor that's in an advanced stage when we first see it," Dr. Savereide said.

While five-year survival rates are still fairly low for IBC, the good news is that advancements in chemo therapy are helping doctors better target the disease, giving patients a good shot at recovery.

Inflammatory breast cancer is more common among African Americans and older, post-menopausal women.

On this 7th of the month, we'd like to remind you to find a friend in the fight against breast cancer.  Remind each other to keep up-to-date with regular exams.  Early detection is key to a quick recovery.

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