Doctors: Rare breast cancer looks like a rash, delaying deadly diagnosis

Kendra Conlon, WTSP

There’s a rare form of breast cancer killing women.  It’s called Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

Doctors at Moffitt Cancer Center say the symptoms are different from breast cancer, when often a lump, tumor or mammogram can help diagnosis it.  That’s what makes IBC so dangerous, delaying diagnosis and by then it can be deadly.

Texas mother, Jennifer Cordts, is sharing her emotional battle with IBC.

A daughter in New Port Richey tells 10News about her and her mom’s struggles fighting breast cancer to help warn other women.

“It brings back a lot of mem­­ories.  I was 13 when my mother was diagnosed,” says Deirdre Clifford.

New Port Richey daughter and mother Deirdre Clifford says she can feel Jennifer Cordts’ pain fighting Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  Clifford went through it with her mom.

“It started out as a bruise, and then it was almost like a heat rash.  My mother had the same problem.  The mammogram didn’t find it but my mother, thank God, was very persistent. I  had her three more years after she was diagnosed,” says Clifford.

In that time, Clifford says her mother, Lynette, ultimately found a lump, had a biopsy, mastectomy, and chemotherapy, but the cancer spread.

“She had three surgeries in six days.  I’ve never seen my mother so sick in her entire life.  It was horrible.  She was doing good, but it metastasized to her lungs.  February of 1984, I lost her,” says Clifford.

Moffitt Cancer Center tells 10News that IBC remains rare.  “Although breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, affecting 1 in 8 women, Inflammatory Breast Cancer only accounts for 1 to 5% of all breast cancers that are diagnosed.  It’s less than 200,000 cases a year in the United States.”

Doctors say because it’s often mistaken for an infection, they depend on women to notice even the slightest changes.  Clifford hopes it’ll help save someone else’s mom.

“All I can say is if you think something isn’t right, be persistent, know your own body,” Clifford says.

She has a tattoo on her arm to honor her mother and her fight.

“This is my mother’s name, Lynette.  There’s a halo over her name with the breast cancer ribbon. There’s angel wings on either side.  My mommy is my angel in heaven,” Clifford describes.

The disease is devastating.

Doctors at Moffitt say this is what women should watch for to help with an early diagnosis: “Typically a woman with inflammatory breast cancer will describe an unexplained sudden change in one of her breasts over a several week period. She will describe redness of the breast skin with dimpling or puckering of the skin that resembles the skin of an orange, called peau d’orange. She may describe the breast to be tender and swollen, maybe even larger than the opposite breast in size, with the nipple pulled in or retracted.  She might also describe swelling or fullness in her armpit area where the lymph nodes are located. Typically there is not a lump or a mass within the breast that can be felt, and often mammography fails to have any specific findings to make the diagnosis.”

Moffitt offers multiple breast cancer clinical trials to address patients with all types of breast cancer, including Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

“Inflammatory Breast Cancer in many cases can express something called HER-2 positivity.  Moffitt has a specific expertise nationally in addressing HER-2 positive breast cancer, including the availability of vaccines for HER-2 positive breast cancers in selected patients.”

For more information about Moffitt Cancer Center clinical trials, click here.

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