Komen for the Cure

Some Breast Cancer Missed By Mammograms

Posted August 19, 2006
Updated May 31, 2007

— With breast cancer, Phyllis Goetze thought she would feel a lump or catch it through a routine mammogram. But that's not how she found out.

 

 

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    "At first, it was just swelling, and then, there was redness," said Goetze of Raleigh. "But I noticed some little pimples, and I thought, 'Well, it's just a rash.'"

    Through a biopsy at the Rex Cancer Center, oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Crane discovered it was actually an advanced stage of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), which makes up only 1 to 4 percent of invasive breast cancers and spreads quickly.

    Black women have a higher incidence than white women or women of other minority groups. The median age for IBC is 52 -- younger than the age for other invasive breast cancers, which is 62.

    Many women have never heard of IBC.

    "(It) can look very much like, initially, an infection," Crane said.

    The rare form of cancer does not appear as a lump and is something mammograms might miss. But the skin can thicken, and the surface might look like the peel of an orange.

    Swelling can also occur in the affected breast, as well as lymph nodes under the arms and around the collar bone.

    "It seems to be the rule that these lymph nodes are involved, and hence, the risk of distant spread is enhanced," Crane said.

    Goetze is undergoing chemotherapy that will lead to surgery and then, radiation therapy.

    "And with that, there are patients who can be cured," Crane said.

    "The first chemo has reduced a lot of the symptoms," said Goetze, who knows there is a long, uncertain fight ahead.

    She and her husband, Bennie Goetze, are anxious to warn other women at risk so they can detect IBC earlier than the Goetzes did. With inflammatory breast cancer, even a few days matters.

    "We've got a struggle, but if we can help somebody else to get ahold of this early enough that we save a life or two somewhere down the road -- man, that's all I can hope for to come out of this," Bennie Goetze said.

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