Arizona survivor of inflammatory breast cancer shares experience with rare diagnosis

She was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer or IBC. It’s one of the most deadly, rare, and aggressive forms of breast cancer.
Published: Oct. 23, 2023 at 9:25 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - An Arizona woman remembers what it was like to process a difficult diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). It’s one of the most deadly, rare, and aggressive forms of breast cancer. “Only 48 years old. I still had a life to live and younger children and it just shocked me,” said Pamela Teskey.

With IBC, there isn’t usually a lump, and it’s easy to miss on a mammogram, which often leads to a misdiagnosis. But here in Phoenix, there’s a clinic specifically for patients with IBC.

Teskey is a wife, mother, and grandmother who loves photography, nature, and travel. Her inflammatory breast cancer diagnosis was stunning, and she hopes sharing her story inspires others to listen to their bodies and advocate for their health.

Teskey first noticed something was wrong with her right breast in January of last year. “It was extremely painful, red, rash, and just inflamed,” she said.

She went to her doctor right away and was told she had mastitis, a common infection in breastfeeding moms. At age 48, that diagnosis didn’t make sense to her, but she took her prescribed antibiotics for over a month. It didn’t help. “I just wish I would have listened to my gut instinct a little sooner,” she said.

Teskey advocated for herself and saw a breast specialist. “She took one look at me and she says pretty sure you have stage 4 breast cancer and I said what? I was in shock,” said Teskey.

She learned her IBC in April 2022. It spread throughout her body, including to her brain. “I’m not just gonna lay here and give up,” she said.

Teskey sought specialized care and found an IBC Clinic at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert. Her oncologist, Dr. Shakeela Bahadur, said IBC progresses rapidly, and there’s a high recurrence rate. “It accounts for less than 5% of all breast cancers in the United States, but due to its aggressive nature of it, it counts about 10% of all breast cancer deaths,” said Dr. Bahadur.

Teskey is starting to feel like herself again. Her cancer has been stable since December 2022. “I think every day I feel a little better and get a little stronger,” she said.

Banner’s IBC Clinic opened two years ago, and the health system said it is the only one in the Phoenix area specializing in IBC. There are currently 24 patients taking part in a clinical trial at the clinic. The goal is to better understand this kind of cancer because it’s so rare that not much is known about it, so further research is needed.

Oftentimes, it spreads throughout the body, which makes it hard to treat, but chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation are options in some cases. The IBC Clinic plans to enroll patients in two other trials in the next few months to explore other treatments that could help.

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