Friday, October 8, 2010

Write Pink! Education Week: A Deadly Acronym

In support of Write Pink's Education week, Kim has agreed to share her personal passion with us -- spreading knowledge about IBC.  Please fill the comments with your thoughts and stop by her blog for a visit!

In this world of Twitter, IM and text speak; there are plenty of acronyms that are universally known.

LOL: Laughing out loud.
TMI: Too much information.
TTYL: Talk to you later.
BFF: Best friends forever.

The same holds true for the breast cancer world.

You may do a monthly BSE: Breast self-exam.
If diagnosed you may have an MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging.
Your course of treatment would more than likely include CT: Chemotherapy.
You may turn to an organization for support. How about ACS: The American Cancer Society or SGK: Susan G. Komen for the Cure?

There is an acronym in the breast cancer world that is less recognized than some of these others.


IBC stands for Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

Never heard of it? You’re not alone.

One of the reasons IBC is less known is that it makes up anywhere from 1-5% of total breast cancer cases diagnosed in a year. While up to 11,000 women in the United States being diagnosed with IBC in 2010 seems like an insignificant number in comparison to the 210,000 diagnoses overall, IBC comes with another startling fact.

The 5-Year survival rate for Inflammatory Breast Cancer is 50% at best, while some studies have placed it as low as 25%. That is in comparison to an approximately 89% 5-Year survival rate for breast cancer overall, a number that jumps all the way to almost 98% for breast cancers that have not yet spread beyond the breast.

More than survival rates set IBC apart from other forms of breast cancer. In comparison to the familiar survivor refrain of “I found a lump, my Doctor found a lump, or my mammogram showed a lump,” IBC is often NOT a distinguishable lump in the breast.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer is a cancer in the breast whose symptoms mimic inflammation. However, these symptoms are not caused by injury or infection. With Inflammatory Breast Cancer, the cancer cells are blocking the lymph vessels in the skin.

Symptoms of IBC can include:

 Pain
 Redness
 Swelling
 Warmth radiating from the breast
 Itching
 Changes in the thickness or texture of the skin

One of the many challenges of Inflammatory Breast Cancer is the fact that so many of the symptoms can and will also arise with a simple breast infection. Those symptoms are often treated as such, losing valuable time before a cancer diagnosis.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer is a very aggressive form of breast cancer and it is staged differently. When diagnosed, an IBC patient will either be stage IIIB for cancer that is locally advanced or stage IV if the cancer has metastasized to distant parts of the body.

Because IBC is so different, mammography isn’t always the best avenue for discovering its presence. Often mammography won’t find it at all. Inflammatory Breast Cancer makes knowing your body and your breasts doubly important. While changes in your breast may be nothing, there is also that chance they may be something.

If you don’t already, get to know your girls. Know what is normal for you and your body and vow to see your Doctor if something changes.

When she’s not busy chasing her two boys and her husband, Kim writes at I Want a Minivan, and yes, she really wants a minivan. She lost her Mom to IBC over 8 years ago and wants people to know that early detection saves lives, no matter the type of breast cancer. As she likes to say: Squish ‘em, Squash ‘em, Save ‘em.


  1. Wow! Honestly, I'd never heard of IBC before and I feel a little shocked. I think (am I alone in this?) that I tend to think of breast cancer as a totally treatable disease. Between all the pink accessories and the big, national runs and, yeah, even blogging events like this one, I think I'd started to feel like breast cancer was difficult--a challenge and a battle and an annoyance--but not something that could actually HURT anyone.

    I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but I think I've felt like we're all so aware and empowered that the disease itself had lost its power. Does that make sense? Like it's all just Race for the Cure t-shirts and head scarfs and pink ribbons...

    So thanks, I guess--for snapping me back into awareness! It feels ridiculous to say, but this Write Pink event is starting to make me realize that breast cancer actually makes you...sick.

  2. You know I already love you more than my laundry, Kim, but what a thoughtful and educational piece. I'm so sorry for every day that IBC has robbed you of time with your mom, and I'm so proud of you for working your tail off so that one day no more daughters have the same story to share.

  3. I have heard of IBC but never had it laid out so simply and easily to relate today. I have goosebumps from reading this.

    Thank you for sharing your story and educating other about this. I love your phrase "Squish 'em, Squash 'em, Save 'em"

  4. I'd heard of IBC, and it's very scary. Thank you for laying it out here, Kim. I don't think a lot of women know about it yet.

  5. Kim, I'm so glad you wrote about IBC. I remember being so surprised the first timeI heard about this type of cancer and how deadly it could be. How could we know so little about it? How could it be so under-represented?

    I hope many, many women are helped by your story and this enlightening piece. Thank you.


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?