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Inflammatory Breast Disease and IB Cancer Symptoms

Updated on July 13, 2013

Copyright 2012 - Kris Heeter, Ph.D.

There are three main types of inflammatory breast conditions and disease:

  1. Mammary Duct Ectasia
  2. Lactational Mastitis
  3. Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammation within the breast tissue can occur in a number of different tissue types and breast inflammation has the potential of being a symptom of a serious underlying disease.

Breast Physiology

A breast is made up of three main parts:

  • Glands (where milk is produced)
  • Ducts (these tubes carry milk to the nipple)
  • Connective tissue

The connective tissues is fibrous and fatty and serves to hold everything together.

Symptoms of each of the three conditions mentioned are outlined below:

Mammary Duct Ectasia

Mammary duct ectasia is also called periductal mastitis. It is an inflammatory condition that stems from infection of breast ducts.

With this infection the ducts become blocked with protein, cholesterol, calcium deposits and bacteria.

According to the Mayo Clinic, sometimes there are no symptoms. However, the following symptoms may suggest a duct infection and inflammation:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • Redness at the nipple or surrounding area
  • A lump or thickening near the clogged duct
  • An inward or inverted nipple

Typically the infections can clear up on their own. If they do not, it is important to see a doctor as some of these symptoms are shared with a more serious cancerous condition (see below).

Lactational Mastitis

The most common form of breast inflammation is called Lactational Mastitis.

It can be found in women who breastfeed. Lactational mastitis is caused by a bacterial infection of the breast tissue, and leads to inflammation that can possibly abscess.

Symptoms can include:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Breast swelling
  • Pain or a burning sensation continuously or while breast-feeding
  • Skin redness, often in a wedge-shaped pattern
  • Fever

IBC: Inflammatory Breast Cancer

The most serious inflammatory breast disease is IBC (Inflammatory Breast Cancer).

It is typically an aggressive type of breast cancer that may not be detected in a standard mammogram or ultrasound.

It accounts for approximately 1% to 6% of all breast cancers diagnosed in the United States.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as another benign inflammation condition. It's important to know the symptoms and if treatment for another breast condition, like an infection, does not work to insist upon a biopsy.

Breast changes that occur quickly over a short period of time should be monitored.

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:

  • Pain in the breast
  • A bruise on the breast that doesn't go away
  • Sudden swelling of the breast
  • Itching of the breast
  • Nipple retraction or discharge
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes under the arm or in the neck
  • Skin color and texture changes in the breast area

What Is Normal?

Always keep in mind that what is normal breast tissue for one person may not be normal for the next.

It is quite common for women to have to have lumpy breasts.

The two most common causes of breast lumps are:

  • a fibrocystic breast condition
  • cysts

A fibrocystic condition causes noncancerous changes in the breast that can make them lumpy, tender, and sore.

Cysts are small fluid-filled sacs that can develop in the breast.

Both of these conditions can be common and account for a significant number of lumps detected by women in a self examine.

Some lumps will change or seemingly disappear in women with active hormonal cycles. It is important to note these changes and discuss them with a health care provider.

And finally, breasts tissue changes as we age so it is important to also discuss these changes as they occur with a health care provider.


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    • lifetips123 profile image

      Praveen P.V. Nair 5 years ago from Trivandrum

      hi kris, thanks for your mail. anyway ur hub is great. i had clicked thumbs up and useful.

    • lifetips123 profile image

      Praveen P.V. Nair 5 years ago from Trivandrum

      Thanx a lot kris. keep in touch

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @lifetips123 - I've sent you an email. I'm not sure why that would be but I sent some suggestions for you!

    • lifetips123 profile image

      Praveen P.V. Nair 5 years ago from Trivandrum

      Hi Kris, i am a beginner in hubpages. So i would like to have your advise on some issue i faced. I put a hub with name


      But, this was blocked by hubpages saying that ad can be put in this hub and there is a violation in this hub. i can find wat is the violation because all these are my own sentances and i didn't copy anything. so i though that maybe due to the usage of words like breast, sex hormones, that i used in that hub, i am blocked and can't put ad. But as i saw your hub, since it is about breast issues, i am confused about my hub. pls just go through my hub and give me advise.

    • Imogen French profile image

      Imogen French 5 years ago from Southwest England

      Well done for writing this hub and raising awareness of these symptoms and some of their causes. The more informed we all are about these things, the better.

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you for providing this very important information! I have heard how aggressive this form of breast cancer is but did not know it was often undetected in routine screenings. good to know :)

    • Melis Ann profile image

      Melis Ann 5 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

      I'm happy to see you point out that there are serious conditions that may not be detected by ultrasound or mammogram. Thanks for writing this as it really is informative as to the many reasons there can be inflammation in the breast.

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

      @Alecia Murphy - Prior to writing the article, I had heard of it but I was very surprised to learn that inflammatory breast cancer could be missed by mammograms and ultrasound. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I really haven't been that well-informed on Inflammatory Breast Disease but it sounds like something we should be aware of. Voted up and useful!