Skip to: Site menu | Main content

Get pink ribbon smart

We are a breast cancer prevention site. We post information about breast cancer facts, mammograms, chemotherapy, breast cancer clinics and much more. REMEMBER: This is an information only site, not medical advice!

Mom Fights Rare Breast Cancer By Kerry Fehr-Snyder,
The Arizona Republic, Edition: Final Chaser, Page: E1

Before doctors diagnosed her with a unique form of breast cancer, Vicki D'Atri spent eight months trying to convince someone that the soreness, redness and hardness in her breasts weren't right -- even after a biopsy showed she was cancer free. (My personal comment; We as women need to listen to our heart and gut feels! The SQUIKY WHEEL gets GREASE! Get in your doctor's face!) "I kept saying there's something wrong, the left breast is larger, harder, sorer and hot. I wondered if it was cancer, and the doctor said, 'I highly doubt it,' " D'Atri said.

Turns out he was dead wrong. Even after an ultrasound showed nothing significant, the 53-year-old Phoenix resident returned to the center where she originally underwent a "punch" biopsy that leaves women with sore, red breasts and internal bleeding for up to a month. Back at the center, a doctor performed four skin biopsies. Each came back positive for inflammatory breast cancer -- the most aggressive form of breast cancer. IBC, as it is known, accounts for up to 6 percent of all breast cancers, or 12,756 cases last year, according to the National Cancer Institute. The actual number of cases is hard to determine, said Paul H. Levine, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at George Washington University's School of Public Health and Health Services. "We don't really know how common it is, but it's more common than people think," he said. The survival rate for inflammatory breast cancer is worse than for other solid-tumor cancers. Survival rates hover around 50 percent, far worse than for solid-tumor breast cancers. "Yes, the survival rate is less, but the point is that it's curable," Levine said. "What we don't know is why some women are cured and some aren't." (My 2 cents again, what testing is done on women's hormones and what part does breast cancer play into the hormone replacement therapies that our doctors are putting us on? Great read, "What Your Doctor May NOT Tell You About Breast Cancer" by Dr. John Lee)

In addition to poorer survival rates, IBC strikes women at an earlier age than solid-tumor breast cancer and is not detectable by self-breast examinations or mammography. The median age of diagnosis is 52 vs. 62 for solid-tumor breast cancer, according to the IBC Research Foundation ( Finally, the treatment regimen works in reverse from solid-tumor breast cancers. Because the cancer grows in sheets or nests, patients typically undergo chemotherapy first, followed by surgery, which typically involves a mastectomy, removal of the breast, and then radiation. Most solid-tumor breast cancers are treated first by lumpectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. That flip-flop is one of the reasons Sarah Stewart, a commercial real estate broker who lives in Mesa, co-founded a support group for women with inflammatory breast cancer. "Our cancer is very aggressive," she said. "And our treatment is opposite of standard cancer so we don't fit into other support groups."

Stewart, 51, was diagnosed in April 2002 and underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, a single mastectomy, followed by four more rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation. Doctors were so encouraged by evidence that her cancer is gone that they removed a chemotherapy port in her chest in April. Others aren't so lucky. "There were five of us when we started our group, but one woman died within the first year of diagnosis," she said. "She was 58, a mother of five." The support group, which was co-founded by a 34-year-old attorney who was diagnosed at 31, meets twice a month. Information: (602) 320-2346. (Please take heed of the ages of these women!) In addition to giving IBC patients an outlet for their unique disease, the group wants to raise awareness about the disease so that women and doctors will recognize their symptoms. For D'Atri, she believes she was developing IBC at the same time she underwent her punch biopsy after a routine mammogram showed breast calcification. "The unfortunate part is that it took eight months to figure it out," she said. Active and nutritionally sound her whole life, D'Atri is optimistic she will beat her cancer even after doctors determined she has another form of the disease -- ductile breast cancer in her right breast. She blames IBC in her right breast on 10 years of hormone replacement therapy, which researchers suspect could be one of the causes of IBC. "I'm the first one in all of the generations of my family to have cancer. There's no cancer of any kind, neither on my mother's side or father's side. I had a daughter when I was 27 (years old), I nursed her, I never smoked a cigarette in my life. My weight is exactly where it should be. I've run my whole life," she said. "We do everything right. This is just one of those 'Go figure.'" (This NOT a GO FIGURE! I truly believe in my heart, if we are hormone balance and our body's are pH balanced; we would see a decline in Cancer period!)

Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms
* Swelling, usually sudden.
* Itching.
* Pink, red or a dark colored spot the texture of an orange skin.
* A bruise that does not go away.
* Nipple retraction.
* Nipple discharge or tenderness.
* Breast warm to the touch.
* Breast pain.
* Change in the size or shape of the breast.
* A lump or thickening of or near the breast or underarm.
* Ridges or pitting of the breast.
* A lump that develops suddenly and grows quickly.
* Increased breast density.
Inflammatory Breast Research Foundation.

Article located in Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ) Edition date: October 26, 2004
IBC Research website:

Any feedback? Feel free to email the Administrator with your comments and suggestions!