What is inflammatory breast cancer?
breast cancer is a rare, fast-growing type of
breast cancer. It is often called IBC for short.
Unlike other breast cancers, this type of cancer may not cause a
lump in the breast. So regular breast exams and
mammograms often fail to catch it early. Because it
grows so fast, it usually has spread by the time it is diagnosed.
type of cancer, the cancer cells often do not form lumps in the breast.
Instead, the cancer cells block the
lymph vessels that normally keep lymph fluid moving in
When the normal flow of lymph fluid is blocked, it
can make the breast look swollen and red and feel warm, as if it were
infected . The swelling may cause lots of tiny dimples
in the skin. Sometimes it causes a lump that grows quickly, but you can have
inflammatory breast cancer without having a lump in your breast.
What are the symptoms?
Inflammatory breast cancer can cause one or more of these symptoms:
- A breast that is swollen, red, and
- A breast that is tender or painful
- An area of
itching in the breast
- A recent change in the nipple. Sometimes the nipple pulls back
into the breast instead of pointing outward. This is called a retracted nipple.
- A change in the skin, especially an area that looks thick and
pitted, like an orange peel. Sometimes there are ridges in the skin and small
bumps that look like a rash or hives.
- An area of the breast that
- Swollen lymph glands (lymph nodes) in
- One or more lumps in the breast
How is inflammatory breast cancer diagnosed?
biopsy is needed to diagnose this cancer. During a biopsy, the doctor takes a
sample of the breast or the breast skin. The sample is looked at in a lab to
see if it contains cancer cells.
It’s very important to diagnose
inflammatory breast cancer quickly so that treatment can begin. But because it
is rare and usually doesn't make a lump, doctors may not recognize the symptoms
right away. The cancer is often mistaken for other problems, like spider bites,
an allergic reaction, or
mastitis, which is a breast infection that is usually
Antibiotics do not help
inflammatory breast cancer. If your doctor has given you antibiotics and your
symptoms do not seem to be getting better after a week, call your
After a biopsy shows that you have this type of cancer,
your doctor will order more tests-such as a mammogram, a
bone scan, or a
CAT scan-to see if the cancer has spread.
How is it treated?