In advance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I introduced a resolution last week in order to raise awareness about and help fight a rare but extremely dangerous type of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer (IBC).
The resolution calls upon the federal government to educate the public about inflammatory breast cancer, which is often misdiagnosed by patients and their doctors because of a lack of awareness of the disease. The resolution also calls for new efforts to improve education and encourage research on the deadly disease.
As a nurse I know that a big part of staying healthy and fighting a disease is having as much good information as possible. My resolution calls for greater awareness of and research on inflammatory breast cancer because that’s the first step in saving lives and helping people with this terrible disease.
Inflammatory breast cancer is especially hard to diagnose because of its rarity – no more than five or six percent of breast cancer patients have IBC – and its symptoms are different from those in many other types of breast cancer. In fact, the majority of IBC cases do not present with a lump, according to IBC specialist Dr. Massimo Cristofanilli. Since IBC lies in sheets rather than lumps, the disease is often not found by mammograms.
Unlike most breast cancers, IBC also tends to appear more often in younger women and in African American women. The particularly aggressive nature of IBC means that by the time patients consult a doctor, the cancer has likely spread to other parts of the body. Given the low survival rates, the aggressive nature of the disease, and the tendency towards misdiagnosis, it is critical to raise awareness and understanding of IBC.
I have consistently championed initiatives that promote breast cancer awareness, treatment and research projects on Long Island, including the Women's Cancer Genomics Center at Cold Spring Harbor, where, through analysis on tumors, scientists can develop informative DNA biopsy diagnostic tests and therapeutic strategies for treatment of breast cancer.
Carolyn McCarthy is the representative of New York’s Fourth Congressional District. She was first elected in 1996.