This may be too technical for you. If so…..just skip over it.
I spoke with Dr. Sales again yesterday, and he confirmed that my diagnosis, given the total information at this point, is Inflammatory Breast Cancer. This will not change with the pathological information gathered from the core biopsies being done on Monday. The reason Dr. Sales is doing the core biopsies is because they do not have enough cancer tissue at this point to do the tests on it they need to do to determine what chemo and complimentary medicines I will need. Quite often with breast cancer, the cells are hormone receptive- in other words, they grow more aggressively through estrogen. They test for this type of thing (and others) in the lab, and then establish treatment accordingly.
Another thing I wanted to share, just to clarify, is the cancer staging. Cancer staging runs from 0-4. O represents non-invasive (locally contained), pre-cancerous, cellular changes. These are cells that have begun to look different than they should, but have not quite reached a cancerous stage. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. Then there are stages I, IIa/b, IIIa/b, and IV. Stage IV is a cancer that has spread (invasive/metastatic) to distant places: for instance, a colon cancer that is found in the kidneys. Breast cancers that metastasize generally spread to the bones, lungs, chest wall, and liver. The tests I will undergo next week will help discern if this has occurred. So as of now, I am at a Stage IIIb cancer. It used to be 20 years ago that a Stage III cancer of this nature was practically a death sentence. With increasingly effective treatments, even people with Stage IV cancers are being put into remission and maintaining it. But honestly, the odds are still not in my favor. Many people have told me to think positive…….I have total confidence that God can heal me both directly and through medical intervention, but I am so glad that “positive thinking” didn’t cloud my intuition, because I would’ve made a grave mistake…….
I cannot stress enough the importance of second opinions if you don’t feel comfortable with your situation. In my case I truly believe it may have saved my life, because in a few days from now, I would have been having my breast completely removed…..which would have decreased my chances of surviving this cancer dramatically. The reason for this has to do with treatment protocol.
Oncologist’s generally use surgical methods as a local treatment. In other words, removing the cancerous tissue treats the immediate area. Likewise, radiation is a very focused and intense local treatment. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment. It is used to treat the whole body rather than a local area. Chemotherapy does not distinguish between healthy cells and cancer cells. There are also systemic medications used to treat underlying condition/causes/correlations (such as hormone therapies and medicines that discourage formation of new blood vessels). When cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, Dr.’s will often use a combination of aggressive local treatments with a mild systemic approach. As in my case, when it has spread to the lymph nodes AND a local area (skin) they have to do systemic treatments first. Inflammatory Breast Cancer is automatically a Stage IIIb because by the time it presents with detectable symptoms it has already invaded lymph nodes and lymphatic skin tissue. Systemic treatments are used to stop the metastatic process, which is crucial with locally advanced cancers. This is because surgery causes a trauma to the body, and not only can the body not sustain the multiple treatments within a short duration, but the “healing environment” caused by the body’s response to surgery actually facilitates cancer growth. In addition, because IBC invades the dermal tissue, and the surgeon must leave a skin flap to cover the mastectomy site, the surgeon would essentially be reattaching cancerous skin. This would quite literally cause it to spread like “wild fire”. So systemic treatments have to be done first, and very aggressively. That doesn’t mean that local treatments might not be in my protocol. They most likely will…….but they have to grab hold of the cancer to get it to a point where they can address the local issue.
I’m sharing all of this because I was completely ignorant of all of this before this happened to me. In fact- the day I awoke with symptoms, I didn’t even know I could have an aggressive form of breast cancer such as this, yet have no “lump”. You may have already experienced the dreadful world of cancer……but in case you haven’t, it’s good stuff to know about. I have copied some links here in case you want to read more about this type of thing for yourself (or your wife). Al has become as familiar with my breasts (at least externally) as I have, and I found his observations shared with my Drs. was supportive and critical. I have read that often a husband finds breast cancer before his wife does!
Thanks for taking the time to consider all this information!