Inflammatory breast cancer- What is it and what are the symptoms?
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer that occurs when malignant cells block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. IBC is different from other forms of breast cancer because it commonly does not cause a lump or mass.
IBC accounts for only 1 to 5 percent of all cases of breast cancer and has a five-year survival rate of only 40 percent. It’s important to recognize the signs of inflammatory breast cancer and speak with a doctor immediately if you notice changes in your breast.
Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer
Because IBC is an aggressive form of cancer, the disease can progress rapidly within days, weeks, or months. Because of this, receiving an early diagnosis is extremely important. While you usually don’t develop a lump that’s characteristic of other breast cancers, you may have several of the following symptoms.
1. Breast discoloration
An early sign of inflammatory breast cancer is discoloration of the breast. A small section may appear red, pink, or purple. The discoloration can look like a bruise, so you might shrug it off as nothing serious. But breast redness is a classic symptom of inflammatory breast cancer. Don’t ignore unexplained bruising on your breast.
2. Breast pain
Due to the inflammatory nature of this particular cancer, your breast may look and feel different. For example, inflammation can cause your breast to feel warm to the touch. You may also have breast tenderness and pain. Lying on your stomach may be uncomfortable. Depending on the severity of tenderness, wearing a bra may be painful. In addition to pain and tenderness, IBC can cause persistent itching in the breast, especially around the nipple.
3. Skin dimpling
Another telltale sign of inflammatory breast cancer is skin dimpling, or pitted skin. Dimpling — which can make the skin resemble the skin of an orange peel — is a concerning sign.
4. Change in nipple appearance
A change in the shape of the nipple is another possible early sign of inflammatory breast cancer. Your nipple may become flat or retract inside the breast. A pinch test can help determine if your nipples are flat or inverted. Place your thumb and index finger around your areola and gently squeeze. A normal nipple moves forward after pinching. A flat nipple doesn’t move forward or backward. A pinch causes an inverted nipple to retract into the breast.
Having flat or inverted nipples doesn’t necessarily mean you have inflammatory breast cancer. These types of nipples are normal for some women and are no cause for concern. On the other hand, if your nipples change, speak with the doctor immediately.
5. Enlarged lymph nodes and/or sudden change in breast size
IBC can cause enlarged lymph nodes. If you suspect enlarged lymph nodes under your arm or above your collarbone, consult your doctor quickly.
Inflammatory breast cancer can change the appearance of the breasts. This change can occur suddenly. Because this cancer can cause inflammation and swelling, breast enlargement or thickness can occur. The affected breast may appear noticeably larger than the other breast or feel heavy and hard. Some women with IBC also experience breast shrinkage and their breast decreases in size.
If you’ve always had symmetrical breasts and you notice a sudden increase or decrease in the size of one breast, speak with your doctor to rule out inflammatory breast cancer.
Information reprinted from Healthline.