Woman shares story of rare breast cancer diagnosis to save others

Thanks to public education efforts, most women know what they should be doing to screen for breast cancer. The National Breast Cancer Foundation recommends adult women of all ages conduct a breast self-exam to check for signs of cancer once a month. And the American Cancer Society now recommends that all women should begin having yearly mammograms by age 45.

mammogram photo
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Many women are familiar with these guidelines. However, there are little-known symptoms of another kind of rare breast cancer. It’s called inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), and it does not present as a lump as is common with most other types of breast cancer.

Instead, women may notice a warm and swollen breast, skin that appears pitted and thick like an orange peel, rashes or small skin nodules.

IBC is a less common form of breast cancer. But unfortunately, it’s also more aggressive.

It tends to spread quickly, and the median survival rate for people with stage IV inflammatory breast cancer is about 21 months.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Woman speaks out after cancer diagnosis

After being diagnosed with IBC two years ago, Jennifer Cordts speaks out about its symptoms so others can benefit from her story.

When Cordts noticed a red spot that looked like a sunburn on her breast, she went in for a mammogram.

doctor photo
Getty Images | Adam Berry

The results came back as normal, and doctors told her told the problem likely stemmed from wearing a bra that was too small.

However, the rash didn’t go away. After googling her symptoms and learning about IBC, she went back in for a biopsy.

“Everybody was asleep, and I was terrified,” she said when she made her late-night discovery while researching IBC online

Advocating For Others

It was then that she received the devastating news that she had stage-4 inflammatory breast cancer.

When she heard the diagnosis, Cordts was immediately terrified because everything she’d read had said that everyone with IBC dies.

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Getty Images | Christopher Furlong

Doctors gave Cordts three to five years to live, and she’s using the time she has left to complete items on her bucket list as well as advocate for awareness of this deadly disease.

“I really want this to educate. I really want someone to go ‘Oh my gosh I have redness in my breast. I better … push past the mammogram and ask for some more tests,'” she told Health.

She’s currently undergoing radiation therapy to hopefully slow the disease. Cordts also has a PET scan every three months or so to see if the cancer has spread.

Watch Cordts’ whole eye-opening journey in the video below:

Experts agree that women should push for more answers if they feel that doctors don’t properly address their symptoms.

RELATED:5 Early Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer—Because It’s Not Always A Lump

“Most rashes are due to allergic reactions to medication or irritation,” Dr. Marleen Meyers,a medical oncologist at NYU’s Perlmutter Cancer Center tells Health. “But any rash that doesn’t resolve within a few days or is associated with other symptoms such as shortness of breath or fever should be evaluated. If you see something, say something.

doctor photo
Getty Images | Joe Raedle

So, what you should you look out for, in addition to checking for lumps or abnormalities during your monthly self-exam?

Experts say you should pay attention to swelling and redness that affects a third of your breast or more. You should also pay attention to the color of your breasts, as they may appear pink or red with IBC. Also check your skin for any ridges or pitting (think the texture of an orange peel). You might also experience a rapid increase in breast size, heaviness, tenderness or inverted nipples. You may also feel swelling in the lymph nodes under your arm or near your collarbone.