Early in May, I woke up with a painful tubelike lump in one breast and that evening, before showering, I noticed there was an accompanying red streak about a quarter of an inch wide and three and a half inches long. I immediately called my breast cancer surgeon, and he called back within minutes (this was about 8 p.m.) and said to come in first thing the next morning. These symptoms pointed to two possible conditions: mastitis, a mammary gland infection which is not a big deal, or inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), which is always stage III or IV when diagnosed and fatal for most. It’s like what I had before—ductal carcinoma in situ—except no longer in situ.
When I saw my doctor the next morning, he said, “I don’t see how you could have cancer—you just had a clean mammogram four months ago,” but the Internet says that IBC is very aggressive and can easily get to a late stage between mammograms, unlike other forms of breast cancer, so that was not at all relieving. Regarding mastitis, the Internet says it is most commonly seen in nursing mothers and that it’s frequently accompanied by fever and chills. It’s often discovered when women seek medical treatment for what seems to be the flu. Figuring he would try the simplest thing first, my doctor prescribed antibiotics to be taken every six hours for a week. I asked how I could have gotten such an infection, if that’s what it was, and he said he didn’t know. He asked twice if I had fever or chills—flu-like symptoms—but I didn’t. I didn’t realize the significance of that until after I got home and performed more research, and then I was even more worried.
The antibiotic was Cephalexin, which I mention because, unlike other antibiotics I’ve been on over the years, it did not cause stomach upset or a yeast infection. The red streak got no worse and began to fade slowly, and the pain abated, but the lump actually became larger and rounder for a few days. However, I figured that if it was IBC, which does not respond to antibiotics, the redness would be getting worse. After several days, the lump also started to get smaller and, in the course of a couple of weeks, went away completely, so it was some kind of localized infection, thank goodness.