Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer.  It usually begins with reddening and swelling of the breast instead of a distinct lump. Symptoms worsen with weeks or months  and prompt treatment is crucial. It can easily be confused with breast infection. By the time it is diagnosed, it is usually stage  III or stage IV.  Seek immediate medical treatment if you see skin changes on your breast.


inflammatory breast cancer


The exact cause of IBC is unknown.   Doctors however believe that it  begins with an abnormal cell in one of the breast ducts. The DNA of these cells mutate and grow rapidly. These cells then infiltrate and clog the lymphatic vessels in the skin of the breast causing redness , swelling and dimpling of breast.


Am i at risk ?


Factors that increase your risk of inflammatory breast cancer include the following :

  • being woman
  • obese
  • being black
  • increasing age

What are the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer ?


Some of the symptoms include :

  • rapid changes in the appearance of the breast over the course of several weeks
  • thickening, heaviness and  or visible enlargement of one breast
  • discoloration giving the breast a  red, purple, pink or bruised appears
  • skin of breast have ridges and appears pitted like the skin of an orange
  • unusual  warmth of the affected breast
  • flattening and turning inward of the nipples
  • pain, burning and heaviness of the affected breast
  • swollen lymph nodes under the arm, near the collar-bone or both

This type of breast cancer doesn’t usually form a lump as with other forms of breast cancer.


How is IBC diagnosed


Tests and procedures for diagnosis include the following :

  • physical exam
  • imaging tests such as mammogram and magnetic resonance imaging MRI
  • biopsy which involves removal of skin sample of  suspicious breast for testing

You may also have a positron emission tomography PET scan or computerized tomography CT scan or bone scan to help determine the stage of the cancer.


How is inflammatory breast cancer treated ?


Treatment usually involves chemotherapy followed by radiation or surgery.


Your doctor may also recommend hormones therapy if your cancer is sensitive to hormones.

Content Sources

Inflammatory breast cancer. Mayo Foundation. Accessed February 9 , 2016

Inflammatory breast cancer. Breast Accessed February 9, 2016

Inflammatory breast cancer. National Cancer Institute. Accessed February 9, 2016

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