A cancer survivor wants to raise public awareness of the rare form of breast cancer that she experienced.
Georgia resident Rebecca Hockaday's ordeal with inflammatory breast cancer began in 2012, when she was 35, reports WAGA in Atlanta.
What she thought were colored freckles on her chest quickly spread, she explains.
"There was just one, and then two, and I had a bunch more that showed up all at once. And that’s when I thought, OK, this is time."
A dermatologist referred her to a university cancer institute, which is where the inflammatory breast cancer diagnosis was made.
“It will present as redness in the skin that is usually more than a third of the breast, and heat over that (area of the) breast,” explained Dr. Mylin Torres, director of the cancer institute. "The skin of the breast can look like an orange peel, we call that peau d’orange."
The National Cancer Institute provides further details on the disease:
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and very aggressive disease in which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. This type of breast cancer is called “inflammatory” because the breast often looks swollen and red, or inflamed.
Inflammatory breast cancer is rare, accounting for 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the United States. Most inflammatory breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas, which means they developed from cells that line the milk ducts of the breast and then spread beyond the ducts. Inflammatory breast cancer progresses rapidly, often in a matter of weeks or months.
It can also be difficult to diagnose, the government agency adds: "Often, there is no lump that can be felt during a physical exam or seen in a screening mammogram. In addition, most women diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer have dense breast tissue, which makes cancer detection in a screening mammogram more difficult. Also, because inflammatory breast cancer is so aggressive, it can arise between scheduled screening mammograms and progress quickly."
Hockaday underwent intense chemotherapy and had a double mastectomy. However, the cancer did not go into remission. "I didn’t understand why," she said in an interview with WAGA. "I went through chemo, why is it not all gone? I had a mastectomy, why is it not all gone?"
So she was put on a twice-per-day radiation regimen, which finally succeeded, and she has now been cancer-free for five years.
Summing up her brush with death, Hockaday says: “Life is too short, way too short. I learned how to enjoy my family, I learned how to enjoy my family, I learned how to enjoy life itself. Seize every opportunity."