-Charlotte Wittman, from Birmingham, has inflammatory breast cancer
-She was diagnosed in April and had her left breast removed six months later
-Ms Wittman has had four of her scheduled 10 rounds of chemotherapy
-She is warning other women, particularly young ones, to check their breasts
A woman is having to endure 10 cycles of chemotherapy after discovering an itch on her breast, which she thought was an allergic reaction, was actually a rare cancer.
Charlotte Wittman, 44, was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in April after thinking the itch on her chest was caused by washing powder.
But neither Charlotte nor her partner Gary Bogle, 51, could see any other symptoms to make them suspect the itch was anything out of the ordinary.
After three weeks of being ‘driven nuts’ by the constant scratching, poor Charlotte finally sought help and was stunned when her consultant diagnosed her with stage three inflammatory breast cancer.
Charlotte and her partner were devastated by the news as Gary’s late wife had died from breast cancer 14 years earlier.
But after six gruelling courses of chemo, suffering through sepsis and then a taxing mastectomy of her left breast in October, Charlotte is positive about the future.
Charlotte, from Birmingham, said: “I was lacerating my boob every night in my sleep.
“My boob was scabby and bloody basically because I was scratching so much in my sleep. I felt like I was definitely having an allergic reaction.
“The itch was towards the middle of my chest, at the bottom of my breast. I didn’t know whether it was because it was sweaty and that was irritating it. I thought it might be something like that.
“But what was ringing with me then why is it only happening on the one. That was where the concern started.
“With the itch I’ve had a couple of nights where I just thought this isn’t right.
“It flittered into my head that it might be something, but I didn’t think in a million years it might be cancer.
“My partner couldn’t see anything – nothing dodgy, just a bit of a rash and that’s it. I had none of the orange peel skin or anything like that which they say is a common symptom.
“I got all that after my diagnosis, but at the time I just kept thinking it was annoying me now because I was itching it so much, and it was irritating me more than anything.
“I was totally oblivious that it was anything at the beginning. I just went to the GP because it was driving me nuts, basically.”
Charlotte claims that her GP was not worried about her symptoms either, but referred her to the breast clinic ‘just to cover all bases’.
A consultant did a mammogram and a scan of her left breast, and after a biopsy it was confirmed that she had inflammatory breast cancer on April 25.
Just one to five percent of breast cancers are an inflammatory diagnosis, which blocks the lymph channels in the breast and stops them from draining excess fluid away from the organs.
With her partner and friends by her side, brave Charlotte started her exhausting course of chemotherapy on May 11.
But after her fourth course of chemo, Gary became alarmed when his partner’s temperatures spiked and rushed her to A&E.
Charlotte spent six ‘horrendous’ days in hospital was sepsis due to a urinary infection that had poisoned her due to her lowered immune system.
But luckily Charlotte made a full recovery and, after two more courses of chemotherapy, doctors deemed that she was strong enough for surgery to remove her breast on October 8.
The inflammatory cancer was in her skin rather than presenting itself as a lump, and so doctors agreed that Charlotte would need her left breast removed completely.
Out of the 24 lymph nodes removed from her breast, five presented as cancerous – but doctors are confident they have removed the cancer.
Charlotte said: “There was no other option but to remove my breast. I got told very early on which I think helped to accept it and know the way it was going to pan out.
“By the time it got to the mastectomy, I accepted it in my head that it had to be done, but I was worried how I was going to feel because I am quite big breasted.
“But to be honest with you, I’m amazed with myself at how I’ve just accepted that it’s happened.
“It feels a bit odd and I can’t wear a bra yet but it hasn’t really bothered me as of yet.
“I’m not saying it won’t at some point but at the moment it hasn’t really bothered me which I’m pleased about.
“It’s a rare cancer so they have to act quickly which is why they do chemotherapy first and then a mastectomy – apparently it was in the layers of skin rather than presenting itself as a lump.
“I’ve now got a scar from the mastectomy is from the middle of my breast bone right round under my arm more or less straight across and under my armpit.
“It’s very numb under my armpit still because the surgeons cut through your main nerve to reach your lymph nodes.
“I am healing very well, even though it’s still quite sore.”
Now recovering at home, Charlotte faces six more cycles of chemo before radiotherapy to ensure all the cancerous cells have been removed from her breast.
She is urging other women to get checked out if they suspect any changes to their breasts.
Charlotte said: “A lot of people think cancer affects just older women, but it’s not at all.
“There are people in their twenties going through it and they haven’t even lived their lives yet.
“It’s great for young women to be more aware of breast cancer. I’d love for young people to be more aware of it.
“I think the younger people are who have it, the more we should keep drumming it home because I don’t think people think to look unless they have a family history of it.
“I can’t fault the NHS. They’ve been absolutely fantastic throughout the whole thing. I can’t fault any of them.”
So what do you think?
Tell us in the comments.