What is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer that affects between 1%-6% of all breast cancers. Inflammatory breast cancer develops rapidly, usually within three to six months, and presents itself differently from other types of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer occurs when cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin and soft tissue of the breast, which cause the breast to become swollen and red.
Who is at risk for inflammatory breast cancer?
A few groups are more at risk for developing inflammatory breast cancer. Risks include:
- Age – Inflammatory breast cancer is often seen in younger women, even under the age of 40
- Race – African American women appear to be at a higher risk for developing inflammatory breast cancer than white women
What are the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer?
The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer are often different than that of other types of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer may only present with skin changes and no lump. Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:
- Breast swelling, particularly one breast looking larger than the other
- Red or purple color of the skin
- Dimpled or thick skin that may look or feel like an orange peel
- A retracted or inverted nipple
- One breast feeling warmer or heavier than the other
- Itchy, tender or painful skin on the breast
- Swollen lymph nodes under the arms or near the collarbone
Many of these symptoms can also be attributed to breast infections, like mastitis in breastfeeding women. To rule out infection, your doctor may first prescribe a round of antibiotics, but if symptoms persist, further testing may be needed to look for cancer. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should speak to your doctor.