Survivor: Rare Cancer Hard to Detect - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Survivor: Rare Cancer Hard to Detect

Reporter: Shannon Samson

The Komen Race for the Cure is this Sunday at Eastland Mall. And some of the proceeds will teach women how to detect breast cancer.  

While many know to check every month for a lump, they may not realize that's not the only tell-tale sign of the disease. 

The rarest form of breast cancer is also the most aggressive. And that's truly sad considering it's so often misdiagnosed. That's because inflammatory breast cancer can look like a simple skin rash.

Patients don't think it's serious enough to see a doctor and when they do they often just get an antibiotic. And all the while, precious time is lost.

Tammy Moyer Laws never thought she'd be taking so much medication at age 39, but now she knows there are lots of things you never see coming. Two years ago, she woke up with redness and swelling in one of her breasts. Within days, "It was bruised. It was dimpled. It just didn't look right."

She had the same kind of spots as some pictures she found on the Internet. But the site informed her these weren't ordinary skin rashes, they were symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer. "I'd never heard of it before."

She had a double mastectomy followed by massive amounts of chemotherapy and radiation. Even after all she's been through, Tammy considers herself lucky that she got the right diagnosis right away, unlike dozens of women she corresponds with in an online support group.

Because there's usually no lump, doctors don't always recognize the sheets of cancer or what they call cancer nests. "When there's something wrong with your breast, anything, a rash, anything like that, you don't let it go, one. You should really be looking for it and pay attention because it could be inflammatory breast cancer."

The disease is so aggressive that her doctor told her it never really goes away. For Tammy, it's true. "Four weeks ago, I found out it spread."

Doctors found cancer in several of her lymph nodes, near the former site on her chest and possible spots on her pancreas and ribs. "I don't want to leave my husband. I don't want to leave my daughter. You know, things like that make you scared."

But right now, her fear is replaced by determination. "I feel like the reason I'm here is to educate other people."

You can still register online for Sunday's race. The run/walk starts at 9:30, but you can get there as early as 7:30 to take part in the interdenominational service of hope or at 8:30 to see the survivor's walk, which is always a very moving event.

For more information on inflammatory breast cancer, visit this website.

Tammy's journal: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tammyjomoyerlaws

Tammy's support group can be found at www.ibcresearch.org

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