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What is inflammatory breast cancer?

Inflammatory breast cancer is a type of breast cancer that is both rare and presents with different warning signs. This type of breast cancer accounts for about 1% to 5% of breast cancers in the United States. Inflammatory breast cancer, also called IBC, tends to be an aggressive and fast-paced cancer.

With IBC, it is important to know that the warning signs can be very different from the traditional breast cancer signs. It is less common with IBC that you will be able to feel a lump in the breast. Some of the warning signs include:

  • Swelling or enlargement
  • Change in the color of the breast, can be red, pink or purple tones
  • Dimpling of skin
  • Pulling in of the nipple

Additionally, these symptoms tend to arise quickly over the course of weeks or months. With other forms of breast cancer, symptoms tend to occur on a much less rapid timeline and can occur over the course of years.

Mammograms may not show IBC due to appearance as inflammation or skin thickening and due to the rapid onset of the cancer. Sometimes, IBC is mistaken as an infection, however any symptoms that last longer than a week should be discussed with your doctor. It is also important to remember to perform regular breast self-awareness and self-exams as this can lead to earlier detection.

There is a 30% rate of metastasis diagnosis with the initial diagnosis of IBC. With treatment, 65% of women who are diagnosed with IBC will live at least 5 years. Of these women, 35% will have no sign of breast cancer after 10 years from the initial diagnosis. Unfortunately, these prognosis numbers are not as high as they are for women with other forms of cancer. However, clinical trials and improved rates of self-awareness testing can help lead to earlier detection and better treatment options.

Want to learn more about IBC? Click here.

Source: Susan G. Komen