Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Can you Spot The Critical Signs Of This Deadly Disease?

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

Posted in: Health


Inflammatory Breast Cancer is the most rare of all the breast cancers, and it is also the most deadly. While there’s a huge national push to raise breast cancer awareness in general, the majority of women are still woefully uniformed about the most insidious and aggressive form of breast cancer. Women are taught to carefully palpate their breasts each month for things that don’t feel right — lumps, for example. Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) doesn’t have that type of warning symptom — no lump may ever be palpable. For this reason, it’s easy to shrug off as a bruise, a rash, or an infection.

Here are the signs and symptoms you need to look for in order to detect IBC. Please keep in mind that having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have IBC. What it means is that you need to get checked out by a doctor quickly — IBC is aggressive, and once it moves into the lymphatic system, survival rates at five years are abysmal.

The following signs and symptoms should never be ignored.

  • a sudden unexplained rash or bruised-looked area on the breast
  • warmth or hotness in a breast
  • swelling in a breast, sometimes dramatic
  • dimpling of a breast
  • areas of skin on the breast that break open or seep
  • a sore that doesn’t heal on the breast
  • sudden inversion of a nipple on the breast
  • color changes of the breast
  • itchiness of the breast
  • symptoms that do not clear up with antibiotics
  • symptoms that dramatically worsen quickly

Although the average woman who is diagnosed with IBC is in her 50s, IBC can and does strike women much older and much younger each year, including those of childbearing age. IBC is difficult to detect on regular screening tests like mammography, so it is critical that you know your breasts and understand when there is a change. If you notice a small change, it may be a good idea to take a photo so that you can compare over the course of the next few days to see if it’s just a rash or bruise that is going away — or if it is something more urgent to get looked at.

There are treatments for IBC which include mastectomy and chemotherapy. Survival rates are extremely poor because it is an aggressive cancer that quickly travels to the lymph system. Once there, it has the opportunity to metastasize (spread to far locations) within the body, and that makes it difficult to effectively treat.