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Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Updated on December 5, 2008
Photo by Sammis Co
Photo by Sammis Co

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare and little-known but extremely aggressive form of breast cancer that strike both women and men.

It accounts for about 1-5% of all breast cancers diagnosed in the United States. Unlike other types of breast cancer, it commonly strikes women at a younger age than other forms of breast cancer. It also affects men, though male victims tend to be older than female victims.

Also unlike other forms of breast cancer, it rarely appears as a lump and is difficult to diagnose with routine mammograms or breast exams.

Symptoms of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer occurs when cancer cells block the lymphatic vessels in the breast. This causes the breast to become swollen, red, and inflamed. Unfortunately, the symptoms are often mistaken for a breast infection such as mastitis, an allergic reaction, or even an infected insect bite.

If your symptoms do not respond to treatment within a week, contact your doctor and ask about inflammatory breast cancer.

Common symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:

  • pain in the breast
  • sudden swelling of the breast
  • feelings of heaviness, tenderness, burning, or aching in the breast
  • red or pink discoloration, possibly accompanied by oddly textured areas similar to the skin of an orange
  • a bruise-like discoloration of the breast that does not go away
  • itching of the breast
  • nipple retraction and/or discharge
  • elevated temperature of the breast
  • swelling of the lymph nodes in your arm or neck

These symptoms often occur quickly, even within a span of weeks.

If left undiagnosed, IBC can spread and metastasize quickly.

Because inflammatory breast cancer is more likely to have metastasized to other parts of the body by the time of diagnosis, prognosis rates are lower than other forms of breast cancer: a survival rate of about 25-50% over five years. IBC also has relatively high recurrence rates.

For this reason, speedy diagnosis is extremely important. Ask your doctor upfront if you suspect you might have IBC so he or she can begin tests while you are still undergoing treatment for other possible conditions.

Treatment generally involves chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.

IBC: The Silent Killer


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    • Fit Breast profile image

      Fit Breast 8 years ago from Malaysia

      Thanks for the insightful guides and tips. Prevention is always better especially with the unknow virus or cancer poping up every now and then! In fact one of the best ways to detect or prevent breast cancer is through breast massage. As i believe that will be the initial stage to monitor our breasts on a daily basis. As the saying goes"Early detection could safe life!" and screening is the best action to take.

      Fit Breast

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 9 years ago from United States

      Very informative hub! I'd also like to point out that you can have zero symptoms and have IBC and still have this. Don't neglect getting your mammograms, I did and it nearly cost me my life.