Two women who survived subtypes of breast cancer are warning others to be on the lookout for less obvious signs of the disease.
Olivia Franz and Meadow Bailey were diagnosed with rarer types of breast cancer, although they did not show the characteristic lumps that usually prompt women to seek medical attention.
Ms. Franz was 27 years old when she was diagnosed with stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) after noticing swelling in her breast while breastfeeding her son.
When Ms. Franz first saw her doctor, she was misdiagnosed with mastitis, a swelling in the breast usually caused by an infection.
When Ms. Franz saw her doctor, she was initially diagnosed with mastitis, a swelling in the breast usually caused by an infection. But after a week of antibiotics didn’t help, Ms. Franz also noticed that her breasts were very red and almost doubled in size. She also noticed discharge from her nipple
Ms. Bailey was always healthy and active – and she never missed an annual mammogram. But shortly after her 49th birthday, doctors called her after they noticed something worrying during her last exam
However, after a week of antibiotics it didn’t help. Ms. Franz also noticed that her breasts were very red and almost doubled in size. She also noticed discharge from her nipple.
After an ultrasound and a biopsy, Ms. Franz was diagnosed with IBC, a rare form of aggressive breast cancer that is not always accompanied by the usual symptom of a lump in the breast.
Mrs. Franz told me Good morning America: “It had spread to my bones.” I thought, “Well, I’m going to leave a brand new baby without a mother.”
“And then my next thought was, ‘That’s not an option.’ He needs his mom and I’m going to do everything I can to stay there for him.”
IBC is a rare form of breast cancer and accounts for only one to five percent of all breast cancer cases. It usually occurs in women under 40 years of age. It is more aggressive – it grows and spreads much faster than more common cancers.
Due to the unusual symptoms, the disease is often only diagnosed at a later stage. In one in three cases, the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body, making treatment more difficult.
Other symptoms include a warm feeling in the breast, swelling of the lymph nodes under the arms and near the collarbone, and an inverted nipple.
The five-year survival rate for IBC that has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the bones in Ms. Franz’s case, is 19 percent.
Ms. Bailey was always healthy and active – and she never missed an annual mammogram.
But shortly after her 49th birthday, doctors called her after they noticed something worrying during her last exam.
She told GMA, “I thought ‘no big deal,’ and the radiologist looked at it with an ultrasound and she said, ‘We have an area of concern here.’ And I said, ‘Are you talking like cancer?’ “
Olivia Franz and Meadow Bailey were both diagnosed with rarer types of breast cancer after experiencing little-discussed symptoms other than the characteristic lump that prompts women to seek medical attention
“And she said, ‘Yes, I am.'”
Ms. Bailey was diagnosed with Stage 1 lobular breast cancer, a cancer that, like IBC, typically grows and spreads without forming a distinct lump.
She said: “I never felt a lump and felt really good too, so it really surprised me.”
Lobular breast cancer arises in the milk-producing glands of the breast and is the second most common form of breast cancer. It accounts for 10 to 15 percent of diagnosed cases.
Diagnosis can be difficult due to abnormal cell growth, making it difficult to detect on mammograms.
As with IBC, symptoms do not always include a lump but can take the form of an inverted nipple, a change in the texture of the breast skin, and swelling.
The five-year survival rate for lobular breast cancer is nearly 100 percent when treated early.
Both women received special and groundbreaking treatments at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Ms. Franz has been cancer-free for three years and Ms. Bailey has been cancer-free for one year.
After their atypical experiences, both women encourage others to pay attention to changes in their bodies, undergo recommended checkups and advocate for their own health.