Not All Breast Cancer Has a Lump


"It was starting to cause me a lot of pain, but that's not normal for breast cancer either," Bishnoi said.

She never imagined that she had a rare breast cancer that spreads more easily than typical breast cancer and is harder to treat.

Bishnoi, then a chemistry professor at Illinois Institute of Technology, dove into research. The news looked grim: she read that the median survival time after diagnosis was two years. She also read that the 5-year survival rate was 15 percent.

"I was thinking, is my daughter going to know who I am? Who I was?" she said.

But soon she found another website with stories of women who survived 20 and 30 years with the same cancer.

"It gave me hope at the end of the day that it didn't have to be the end," Bishnoi said.

Although it's still a difficult cancer to treat, Pruthi said treatments are getting better. She has patients who were diagnosed almost a decade ago, and they're "doing great."

Bishnoi, who was treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center, started on chemotherapy first, to make sure the skin cells were cancer-free before she underwent a mastectomy. Pruthi explained that this is done because the remaining skin needs to be stitched together after a mastectomy, and if there are remaining cancer cells, it makes the surgery pointless.

Bishnoi then underwent radiation, and was declared "no evidence of disease" in early 2012. The treatment was standard for inflammatory breast cancer, and Bishnoi was fortunate her cancer responded to the treatment.

Doctors have found no detectable cancer in her body for a year and a half. It could still come back, but for now, she's stable and her treatment is working. Her bones, which once had tumors, are beginning to heal.

But others aren't so lucky, and she wants to raise awareness about the cancer she never knew existed until her diagnosis. She's met women who've been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer while breastfeeding and even during pregnancy.

"It's one of those things that as a young person you have to realize that yes, it can happen to everyone," she said, adding that women especially need to take time out from their family duties and take care of themselves. "If you think something's wrong, seek out help."

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