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Uncommon Breast Cancers

Posted 1/13/2014

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  Before your diagnosis, you may well have assumed that breast cancer is breast cancer. Once part of this world, you quickly learn that there are many variants of the disease, some broad strokes and some small ways to differentiate among them. You learn the vocabulary and can smoothly describe your own situation as ductal carcinoma or lobular carcinoma, her2 positive or negative, ER positive or negative, perhaps the grade and the Stage. No doubt you know all you need to know about your own diagnosis, but do you know about the rare breast cancers?

  It is fair to protest that you don't need to know, but I suggest there is another way to consider the question. We know that women who have had breast cancer are at the top of the risk list re developing a second breast cancer, so, from my perspective, we need to be informed about the possibilities. The infrequent aggressive type of breast cancer, Inflammatory Breast Cancer, does not present as a lump. Instead, the breast suddenly looks red and inflamed, maybe sore, the skin maybe looking like the skin of an orange. This, particularly among young woman, may be misread as a breast infection and it is only after antibiotics have done nothing, that another more serious problem is considered.

  From Living Beyond Breast Cancer comes this short primer:

Recognizing the Unfamiliar: A Survey of Less Common Breast Cancers

Published in the Winter 2013-2014 issue of LBBC's National Newsletter, Insight
Written By Nicole Katze, MA, Writer and Editorial Coordinator

The American Cancer Society estimates 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer — cancers that have the ability to travel to distant parts of the body — will be diagnosed by the end of 2013. Many cancers will be found after a woman discovers a hard, uneven lump during a breast self-exam or an annual mammogram shows a suspicious shadow.

Yet for women who develop some of the breast cancers highlighted in this article, which account for roughly 2 to 14.5 percent of all diagnoses each year, these common stories may not hold true.

“These rare cancers can take many women by surprise because they aren’t garden-variety,” says Anees Chagpar, MD, an associate professor of surgery at the Yale School of Medicine and director of the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven.


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