DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Duke Health recently opened the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Clinic, which focuses on early diagnosis and treatment.
65-year-old Charlotte Finley is a patient at the clinic. Her cancer journey started in 2017.
“I was getting ready for work, and I had a burning sensation under my arm, under my right arm,” Finley said.
That’s when she noticed a lump that wasn’t there before.
“I was a little worried but then I said, well I just had my mammogram in November, can’t be anything wrong,” Finley said.
Finley decided to visit her doctor, who did a biopsy. Soon after, she learned she had inflammatory breast cancer.
“Stage four breast cancer. We had to move quickly, within two weeks we started chemotherapy,” Finley said.
According to the American Cancer Society, inflammatory breast cancer is rare and accounts for only one percent to five percent of all breast cancers. It often does not cause a breast lump and might not show up on a mammogram.
Dr. Jeremy Force, Medical Director of the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Clinic, says IBC is characterized by physical symptoms developing rapidly.
“While not common, it is aggressive, and it affects the skin. It can be atypical,” said Force. “Usually we look for one-third of the breast to have redness on it, for there to be some swelling.
It can have sort of an orange peel appearance.
“It did it quickly, I mean in two weeks, the tissue in my breast started to change,” Finley said.
There are differences in treatment for IBC and that’s why Dr. Force says the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Clinic is essential in diagnosing cancer early and treating it effectively.
“This is scary, it’s scary stuff and we recognize how life-changing this is and we want to make patients feel comfortable, that they’ve got a good team behind them, confident that we’re going to help them make the right decisions for them,” Force said.
“As we see more patients here, we will be able to actually understand what is the difference about this so we can come up with very unique treatment plants that would be optimized and personalized for each individual patient,” Force added.
Dr. Force and the team at Duke Health were with Finely through her journey.
“When you go there, you’re not a patient, you’re part of a family,” Finley said.
She went through several months of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and radiation. Finley says she maintained hope through it all.
“Stage four breast cancer, they moved quickly, and now today I can say I’m cancer-free,” Finley said.