Rebecca Hockaday didn't think much of the dark spot on her breast that she found five years ago. After all, the now-39-year-old had been spending a bunch of time outside, so she was convinced it was just a freckle. But then, she saw more pop up, and she could never imagine what the dermatologist was about to tell her.
She had a rare, but extremely aggressive, form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer. And the so-called "freckles" were actually the places where the cancer had spread to her skin and her lymphatic system. It wasn't long before her breasts got redder and started to change texture—like an "orange peel," as she put it.
Inflammatory breast cancer only accounts for 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the United States, but it also spreads rapidly—sometimes within months or even weeks.
So it's important to brush up on inflammatory breast cancer symptoms to be on the lookout for, such as rapid change in the appearance of a breast, discoloration that gives the breast a red, purple, pink or bruised appearance, and dimpling or ridges on the skin that gives it an "orange peel" texture.
It's important to note that these symptoms may be caused by another condition, so it's always best to check with your doctor as soon as possible after noticing something may be amiss.
Fortunately, in Hockaday's case, she was treated by an oncologist and underwent chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and radiation. And 10 months later, her cancer was gone. But she still needs to get an injection every month to make sure it stays gone. Now, she has a message to send to women who notice anything "off" about their own bodies.
"We get busy with our lives and careers, and we don't take care of ourselves like we should," Hockaday said. "It's important that women pay attention to their bodies and put their bodies first."