The American Cancer Society has started a campaign for more birthdays, proclaiming that "there's no such thing as too many candles!" And even if I do get a little nervous about growing older, I completely agree with that slogan. I know that my friends who are cancer survivors are celebrating every candle, and I'm cheering right along with them.
In honor of my birthday, I hope you'll take a moment to read the guest post below from a great blogger, mom, scientist and cancer survivor. You might also want to read her more recent post in defense of mammograms, following the new guidelines released by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force -- as a scientist and a survivor, she knows what she's talking about.
From WhyMommy at Toddler Planet:
Inflammatory breast cancer
There’s more than one kind of breast cancer. Did you know that? During October, we’re so often flooded with “buy pink” campaigns, and reminders to check ourselves for lumps, that it’s become almost commonplace. We all know that we should do regular self exams, and we’ve heard it so often that the urgency often fades into the background of children, spouses, laundry, and work. But did you know that there’s a kind of breast cancer that forms without a tell-tale lump?
It’s called inflammatory breast cancer, and it spreads FAST. The cancer forms in thin sheets, or in nests, like a bird’s nest of cancer growing inside your breast. There are few external signals or symptoms, and they’re sneaky too, since most of them are similar to mastitis, which many of us have experienced while breastfeeding a baby, or bug bites, or sunburn. But taken together, one or more of these symptoms can signal a dangerous cancer lurking in your breast.
What are the symptoms? Here’s a list, from the IBC Research Foundation:
* Swelling, usually sudden, sometimes a cup size in a few days
* Pink, red, or dark colored area (called erythema) sometimes with texture similar to the skin of an orange (called peau d’orange)
* Ridges and thickened areas of the skin
* Nipple retraction
* Nipple discharge, may or may not be bloody
* Breast is warm to the touch
* Breast pain (from a constant ache to stabbing pains)
* Change in color and texture of the areola
There’s a great illustration of these symptoms over at Worldwide Breast Cancer that is guaranteed to be not like anything you’ve seen before….
In my mind, it boils down to this. If you notice ANYTHING DIFFERENT on one breast that’s not on the other breast, please CALL YOUR DOCTOR. Today. Because this cancer moves fast, faster than almost any other cancer, and is deadly. Only 40% of patients survive 5 years after diagnosis.
In the 2.5 years since my diagnosis, I’ve already lost a dozen friends to cancer. Many of them were moms and bloggers, readers just like you. They fought hard. They fought with everything they had. But cancer treatment is largely still in the experimental stages, and it’s a tough road. Just to be here today, I had to not only survive cancer, but also survive 6 months of chemotherapy, 7 weeks of daily radiation, 2 surgeries to remove my breasts and ovaries, and a lot of physical therapy to deal with lymphedema, which makes my arm swell in the heat when I step outside (as a lovely side effect of the mastectomy that took all my lymph nodes on that side). It’s been a hard, hard road, but I’m grateful for the chance to be here today, to hug my children, to play their games, to laugh at their knock-knock jokes.
There is joy after cancer. But first we have to get there. So please, take a moment, call/email/blog/tweet/update your friends, and SHARE the SIGNS of inflammatory breast cancer with the people you care about. You never know. You might just save a life.
Just in case that's not enough to motivate you, check out this fantastic video courtesy of Ilina. She reports that "Emily Somers created, directed and choreographed this video in Portland for her Medline glove division as a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. This was all her idea to help promote their new pink gloves. I don't know how she got so many employees, doctors and patients to participate, but it started to really catch on and they all had a lot of fun doing it. When the video gets 1 million hits, Medline will be making a huge contribution to the hospital, as well as offering free mammograms for the community."