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livelaughlove21's avatar

Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Paranoid or Careful?

Asked by livelaughlove21 (14620 points ) February 9th, 2013 from iPhone

I’m a 23-year old female, for those that don’t know. Non-smoker, no family history of breast cancer.

Last month I was having mild daily headaches, some tiredness, and pain/tension in my shoulders/upper back. I was diagnosed with tension headaches and put on a round of an anti-inflammatory pills, muscle relaxers, pain meds, and prednisone.

Upon completion of these pills, my muscles became sore to the touch and my whole body felt weak and achy. I discovered that coming off prednisone can cause this, and it went away in 3–4 days.

I’ll still occasionally get a headache, but ibuprofen takes care of it, but I’m no longer tired. I have occasional random body pains that are mildly irritating, but not consistent or extremely painful. These have been in my back, ribs, neck, and arms and are often sore to push on, but go away in a few minutes.

I only told you all of that in case it matters, but I’m not sure it does.

Two weeks ago, my right breast started to feel tender and heavy. I’ve been wearing a sports bra at night, which helps. My right breast has always been a bit bigger than the other and breast tenderness is pretty common for me, so I didn’t think much of it.

Monday of this week, the heavy feeling wasn’t as noticeable, but I had a few sharp burning pains in that breast that concerned me. Since then, I’ve had a couple of these pains, but I’ve noticed a couple in the other breast as well. Yesterday I had no pain at all until I took my bra off, thought I saw a bruise (faint, not noticeable this morning), and the tenderness seemed to come back. Today it’s pretty sore.

Now, when I google these symptoms, I get inflammatory breast cancer, a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. My already high anxiety has hit the roof.

If there’s swelling, it’s minor enough that I haven’t noticed, and there’s no reddening, rapid growth, or “orange peel” skin. No nipple inversion or discharge and the breast doesn’t feel hot. And in 2–3 weeks, it hasn’t gotten worse and is very inconsistent. My period started today,

I know breast cancer in someone my age is rare, and this type of cancer is even rarer, but nothing else fits my symptoms. Mastitis occurs most often in those that are breast feeding, and I’ve never even been pregnant. I have gained a bit of weight recently and my bra isn’t fitting as well, but I’m unconvinced that’s the issue here.

I have an appointment on Wednesday with my OBGYN, but I’m scared out of my mind. Most women with IBC are misdiagnosed as an infection, as there’s no lump and it cannot be detected via ultrasound or mammogram – only a breast MRI and punch skin biopsy. What if my doctor just brushes it off as an infection and puts me on antibiotics? Should I demand the biopsy, even with no visible swelling or redness?

In my head, I’ve got this fast-growing cancer that may have already spread, hence my symptoms last month. This has taken over my thoughts and all I’m doing is sitting around stressing about it.

What do you think? Am I crazy or are my concerns legitimate? How can I relax and stop worrying about it for the next few days until my appointment?

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23 Answers

deni's avatar

Do your boobs usually get sore around your period? You said it started today, so it seems to me that that is really likely to be the cause. I know it’s different for me every month, some months I have no breast soreness around my period, other months it can literally be for 2 weeks before hand! I know the pains youre talking about, even a sharp pain here or there. I think it’s good you made a doctors appointment and it is really easy to get stressed out about things like this, I do the same thing. I think you are being kind of paranoid about it though, and you probably won’t be able to knock it off til you get to the doctor. But I really don’t think you should be worried. I’ve experienced similar things and it generally ends as my period ends. Also, don’t underestimate what a badly fitting bra can do to you as far as comfort is concerned! You said you gained a little weight and it hasn’t been fitting as well as before, over the course of time I feel like that could definitely make you uncomfortable! So perhaps a combination of things, and especially your period, have all culminated in sore heavy breasts. Also, the internet has a rich history of making us paranoid about our illnesses. I would stop googling it if I were you, that will probably help. Hope you feel better about it.

SuperMouse's avatar

Take a deep breath. First, odds are very, very good that you do not have inflammatory breast cancer. Second, you are seeing the doctor and Wednesday and you will get to the bottom of this. Don’t be afraid to share your concern with your doctor. If s/he is worth their salt they will take you seriously, review the symptoms, and allay your concerns.

Shippy's avatar

It could even be the pain in your back shooting through. I doubt very much it is as serious as this. Specially since there is no history in your family. Try not to worry, and realize over a period of week you have had aches and pains which were diagnosed as stress and anxiety. So it could be this. I know how you feel I always think the worst. Googling is a waste of time, I spent a year doing this and all the things I thought it was, it was not. Did you manage to get an anxiety medication? Perhaps you have pleurisy or lung infection I say so because of the Prednisone.

JLeslie's avatar

Are you sure you aren’t pregnant? Is your tender breast the side you usually sleep on? Are you taking any hormone medications? Even topical?

I doubt you have cancer, but of course nothing is impossible.

About the drugs you took, for a headaxhe I would never take prednisone as an initial thing to try. Along with that, many doctors now prescribe prednisone as the same dose daily, years ago they also did it in declining doses. If you ever take it again, make sure you take it in declining doses. Meaning the last few days you go from 40 to 30 to 20, etc. It does not have to be exactly those doses, just anything decling from the dose you were taking.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

Ok, I often get what sounds like similar types of pain. Have you done any kind of exercise that you previously have not done? Lifting heavy weights even the groceries can give you pain.

To me it sounds like muscle pain, which is what I get. I get this excruciating pain in my rib area that feels like someone is squeezing me, I’ve had this for years now. I just started the gym and have been getting breast pain, and I’m positive its because of the peck machine or the back machine.

Anyway my doctor is in the middle of trying to figure out what is wrong with me, he has told me he thinks it might be MS or Fybromyalgia. He is checking everything. I would not rely on the internet so you need relax about the various diseases it can throw at you. Are you having sny other symptoms?

JLeslie's avatar

@nofurbelowsbatgirl Promise me you will have your vitamin D, iron, thyroid, and B12 checked. Most significantly vitamin D can possibly greatly improve your condition. I don’t mean ignore being evaluated for the other suspected ailments, I am not one of those natural only, vitamin pushing people. I firmly believe in having the blood tests done and seeing where you are actually deficient.

I know so many people who have muscle troubles and vitamin D helped significantly once their levels went up into the normal range. I am one of them. I feel like I was headed towards MS or something similar in the coming years, and maybe now I have prevented it or at least pushed it off farther into the future.

I have to take a tremendous amount of D to stay in the normal ranges, and I am not that unusual actually according to my doctor, and there have been some doctors in the media recommending high doses also. My thing is, I think we shouldn’t just take large doses of D without being monitored. High doses can raise blood calcium levels, which is very bad for our health. My calcium has always been normal, even though I take about 60,000 iu’s of D a week.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

Thank you @JLeslie :) I do have some type of iron deficiency which the doctor is treating currently with iron pills and they have helped with the lethargy I was experiencing. But, there are various other symptoms I was having and that’s why I asked @livelaughlove21 if there has been any other symptoms she has had.

My other symptoms include (and this is along with the muscle pain) whole body paralysis, muscle twitching, non permanent loss of vision, balance issues, joint pain, cold limbs. I’ve probably missed some, I have a symptom book which records all the various symptoms and when they happen. Plus I have bipolar. I can tell you that my symptoms are almost always worse when I am under stress.

I do not know if this helps @livelaughlove21 but I really hope it does not stress her out too much. I hope you get better @livelaughlove21.

bea2345's avatar

@livelaughlove21 – Of course it is right for you to be concerned. But do not worry. Trust me: if you ever have IBC, your doctor will notice it. You say there is no history of breast cancer in your family. That’s one big risk factor gone. Another plus is your youth. And of course, you don’t smoke. Periods cause some odd things: as a teenager, during a period my nipples would discharge a whitish fluid, like milk. It never occurred to me to tell anyone about it and of course, in the 50s and 60s we had no computers and books on the subject were hard to get.

Some of the symptoms you describe don’t appear until the disease is well advanced. I have IBC, it was cured in 1998 but had a new attack in 2009 in the same breast; had a mastectomy. In 2010 there was another one, this time in the other breast and now I am in stage IV. (It is interesting that it is not known if this is a new infection or a repeat of the earlier one. The evidence points to the former) All that means is that the chances of a cure for me are small to none. Am I scared? Not too much. What I found when I knew the worst, it became surprisingly easy to drop things that I could not help. One discards inessentials. One copes with the disease itself and the awful medications; copes with the inevitable periods of depression and anxiety. I am still in full time employment, and please God, will remain so until my contract runs out in a few months’ time. Much of my leisure is spent in putting my affairs in order.

And the reason for this screed? Don’t worry so much. It is unlikely that you have cancer but have the symptoms checked and trust your doctor. Remember you live in a country which has one of the best medical services in the world.

JLeslie's avatar

@nofurbelowsbatgirl I’m sorry to hear you are having so many health problems :(. I’m glad the iron has helped. I emphasize again the vitamin D, although I don’t think it will cure everything you mentioned, I do think there is a very strong chance it plays a part in whatever is happening to you. I would say do everything you can to put as much in your favor as possible. B12 is nerve related. Most doctors think of that one, so you might have been tested. The D, many doctors don’t test for it. Thyroid somehow gets overlooked by doctors, which I find stunning. Half of your symptoms can be thyroid related, but they also can mean the diseases you mentioned as well. But, since you are bipolar I am going to assume your thyroid is regularly tested at least once yearly. If not that is a big problem in my opinion.

@livelaughlove21 Sorry to go on a tangent. I think those tests are good for all women to get, especially the D if you protect your skin from the sun. I’m hoping some of my questions above for you will help narrow down what might be happening.

Rarebear's avatar

This is exactly why going to the internet for medical advice is so harmful. If you’re concerned, seek a qualified professional.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

@JLeslie Thanks again. I have had my thyroid tested, so far it is fine, although ironically my mother has thyroid problems, so it would not surprise me if I ended up getting it too! My doctor is pretty good when it comes to testing for things. Oh I am also diabetic. I am pretty much a walking health disaster lol.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear Who is stopping or deterring her from going to a doctor?

gorillapaws's avatar

All the internet is going to do is match symptoms against a database of known symptoms and fire back results. The human body is very complicated with many different interrelated systems, feedback loops etc. It takes a doctor to evaluate your complex set of problems and symptoms to make an accurate diagnosis. Trust in your Doctor, and if you don’t like her advice, see a second doctor (or even possibly a third), at no point does disliking the advice of doctors justify ignoring their collective recommendation and make the internet a more reliable source for your personal medical problems. Don’t demand a biopsy, that’s borderline crazy.

Best wishes, I hope you get to the bottom of this quickly.

JLeslie's avatar

@livelaughlove21 Sorry to have multiple posts, but I want to remind you that you have stated you don’t have the majority of the symptoms associated with that cancer. Try to focus on that the next few days when your fear builds up.

Rarebear's avatar

@JLeslie What @gorillapaws said. The issue is that she’s a) going to the internet to try to match up vague symptoms and coming up with something alarming (when it’s really a 99%+ chance not to be that), and then b) compounding it by going on an anonymous website for advice. Google and Fluther are not the place to be getting medical advice.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear Oh, I thought you meant answers here. I agree the OP seems to convince herself of something dire when it is extremely unlikely. She doesn’t have the symptoms, I am not sure why she thinks she has that particular cancer. I tend to be the opposite, so I can read all sorts of stuff and rarely feel like I have it or will get it. If I remember who is who, my memory isn’t always great about that, the OP has some chronic problems that doctors are not able to treat effectively or even diagnose. I know what that is like. It means to the patient they need to seek their own answers. Being sick and having doctors say, “there is nothing wrong,” is extremely stressful. Or, doctors suggesting procedures, tests, medication that we know don’t make sense and enduring them, paying for them, hoping we are wrong and the doctor is right, and the doctors not being right mulriple times. What begins to happen is we as the patient learn our medical treatment is up to us, even though we really don’t want it to be. That there is a lot medicine does not know (which is not the fault of the doctor) that women are dismissed often by doctor’s (if we haven’t experienced it ourselves we are at minimum warned about it) and if she is like me, she knows about a whole bunch of mistakes made by doctors. I can only speak for myself, but I assume some of this is a factor for her.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Thanks everyone.

@Rarebear I am going to the doctor. I know Googling symptoms is bad, but I can’t help myself. My major problem is anxiety. I’m a hypochondriac and, in the past, I’ve been absolutely convinced I had colon cancer, lung cancer, a brain tumor, skin cancer, and colon cancer. Needless to say, cancer is a big fear if mine and, lucky me, Google usually goes right to that explanation when I have strange symptoms. This is a problem I need to address, but I don’t want to be put on anti-anxiety meds at my age. I came on Fluther, not necessarily for medical advice (I know I cannot be diagnosed via Internet), but in the hopes people would ease my mind by telling me how crazy my fears are. Anything to ease my anxiety, which is sky high and a huge pain in my ass.

@JLeslie Nope, definitely not pregnant. My doctor gave me Prdnisone for the muscle tension, not the headaches, and it was a declining dose, but I missed a pill. I’m sure that’s what the muscle/body soreness was afterward. I sleep on both sides, so that’s probably not it, and I’m not on hormones. I quit birth control in May 2012, three months before my vulvar symptoms began, so I’m not sure what my hormone levels are looking like right now. Thank you for the support/reassurance.

Once I get this taken care of, I’ll be establishing myself with a PCP by getting a physical and asking for a referral to a psychologist for my anxiety. I really need to get a handle on this, as it negatively impacts my life on a daily basis.

JLeslie's avatar

@livelaughlove21 I am not sure what psychologists suggest for this, but I am thinking you need to go one extreme or the other, either learn a lot more about medicine so you don’t get so paranoid about every little twinge, or find a way to not be so compulsive about looking things up and reading about them. Focusing on an area will make it more likely to be aware of that area which means you can feel more pain. I also am very aware of my body, but generally I don’t think I have anything catastrophic. So, even though I babble a lot like a hypochrodriac, I kind of am the opposite.

Therapy helped me when I was at my worst with my GYN problems. I hope it is helpful for you. However, I went to two terrible therapists before I found the one who was great.

gailcalled's avatar

This, from @Rarebear bears repeating.

Google and Fluther are not the place to be getting medical advice.

@JLeslie; That certainly means precisely ”answers here.”

Viz: Promise me you will have your vitamin D, iron, thyroid, and B12 checked.

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled My recommendations are suggesting going to a doctor, not scaring someone into feeling they have a particular dificiency or illness. Sorry, but many doctors overlook these things all too often, I will never stop suggesting them, especially when it seems relavant to someone’s question. I say over and over I think self medicating, even with just vitamins, minerals, and herbs is a bad idea without being monitored. All too many people have been helped by my advice, I doubt you will ever be able to shut me up. Getting some extra blood tests thrown in when they are being evaluated anyway is not going to hurt anyone, except maybe their pocket a little bit. I even say in my answers their doctor might have checked it already, I am not assuming anything.

I think @Rarebear picked up on the OP’s exaggerated and irrational reaction to what she read about the cancer, which makes sense, I also felt her reaction didn’t make sense. Pretty much everyone here gave alternated possibilities for her discomfort and did not try in any way to talk her out of seeing her doctor.

There have been times jellies have helped other jellies get the medical help they need, especially during emergencies.

SuperMouse's avatar

@livelaughlove21 I just want to point out that there might be a tendency for a person to manifest that which they think most about. I think it would be a good idea to get some help for dealing with your anxiety.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I ended up canceling my appointment because the pain went away and there were no signs of an infection. I felt pretty stupid for thinking it was as serious as IBC at my age and with only one or two symptoms.

However, the pain seemed to return after I removed my bra Tuesday night and thought I saw a ridge in my skin beneath my nipple. The pain started immediately after this and, even though I tried actively to stay calm, the pain stuck around and yesterday the muscle pain in my back returned.

The “ridge” turned out to be caused by my bra and went away after a few minutes, but even when I knew it was nothing, I could feel the worry come back against my will.

I know I most likely don’t have IBC or something that needs immediate attention like an infection. I’ve also been having some soreness in the other breast, just not as much. I have an OBGYN appointment on March 7 and I’m not sure if I should make an earlier one just for the breast pain or just wait it out. My period still hasn’t ended, so I suppose that could be it. My periods have been on time, but the cycle itself has been unusual (heaviness/duration), so I’m thinking hormones. If I wait until March, I’ll definitely tell him about the pain even if it’s gone and have him examine me, but I don’t know if I should wait or not.

I’m not freaking out about it anymore, just sick of being sore and not wanting to miss work/school for an unnecessary appointment.

JLeslie's avatar

@livelaughlove21 Your nipples might be dry, which can be irritating. This time of year with the heater on indoors can cause all sorts of dry related problems all over our bodies. I don’t think that explains pain inside the breast, but if some of the discomfort it on the surface that might be contributing.

My rule of thumb is wait a week and see if it goes away. This is whenever I discover something that might be worrisome. Sometimes we need something tended to immediately, no question, but often a twinge dissappears, a muscle relaxes, a little cyst goes away. But, I am not a doctor, and I hate going to the doctor and being told they can’t do anything or everything is fine. So, maybe don’t take advice from me. :)

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