Knoxville woman sounds the alarm on the warning signs of IBC

A breast cancer survivor wants you to know the signs of Inflammatory Breast Cancer because they are much different than you may think.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It is the last day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we are sharing the story of a special woman with a special message about a rare cancer called Inflammatory Breast Cancer—a disease Sarah Pattison discovered she had all on her own.

“My heart for this is, gosh, that some woman at home is like, ‘oh, my gosh, that sounds like what’s going on with me right now,'” said Pattison. 

Pattison is sounding the alarm on Inflammatory Breast Cancer. The symptoms are not typical and she wants women to know what to look for.

“The tagline for inflammatory breast cancer is ‘no lump, still cancer,'” said Pattison. 

Sarah discovered her breast cancer during a very difficult time in her life. Covid had just shut down her small business, The Happy Envelope.

“When we thought, wow, it can’t possibly get worse than this. I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Pattison. 

She immediately underwent chemotherapy and then had a double mastectomy.

“I had that mastectomy, I ended up seeing a rash on my chest about a week post-surgery. That was perplexing. We didn’t really understand it and it was a rash that moved and changed hour by hour.  It was very odd,” said Pattison. 

She soon learned it was Inflammatory Breast Cancer, a rare cancer that makes up one to 5% of all breast cancers in the United States, but it’s much more aggressive and the warning signs are not typical.

“It is important to look for that lump or a breast mass, but oftentimes with Inflammatory Breast Cancer it may just be the skin changes that first are noticed and that lead us to a diagnosis of breast cancer,” said Dr. Mediget Teshome, a breast surgical oncologist at MD Anderson

The warning signs: 

An orange peel-looking rash on the breastThickening skinA heavy, red or swollen breast

Dr. Teshome helped Sarah navigate her diagnosis.

“I feel really honored to be part of her story and her life,” said Dr. Teshome. 

She says Sarah really advocated for herself and her treatment.

“I think that the most important thing that you can do is, I hate to use the word bossy, or pushy, but put on your big girl pants and get it done. Because you’re going to have to.  Because a lot of people are going to say, ‘well, we can get you in in a month and a half, or we can get you in in six weeks or maybe we can do a mammogram’.  But that you don’t have time for that!” said Pattison.

Sarah just celebrated a big date. One year with no evidence of disease and she is grateful.

“Our community here in Knoxville has been unbelievable,” said Pattison. 

The Happy Envelope is donating 50% of all stationary sales online and in-store to Breast Connect. Today is the last day for the fundraiser.


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