What to know about inflammatory breast cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form of breast cancer. It is often an extremely aggressive cancer that can grow and spread quickly, sometimes within days.

According to the National Cancer Institute, inflammatory breast cancer only accounts for 1–5% of all cases of breast cancer that doctors diagnose in the United States.
Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms, treatment, and prognosis of the disease.
                    Signs and symptoms

Many kinds of breast cancer often begin with a lump in the breast.
Inflammatory breast cancer, however, usually starts with the breast feeling heavy and appearing red and swollen.
Other symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:
  • redness affecting one-third or more of the breast, which may become more pronounced and then seem to fade
  • swelling or rapid growth in the breast
  • a breast that feels hard to touch
  • noticeable aching, tenderness, or hot feeling in the breast
  • a nipple that seems to flatten out or move sideways
  • changes to the skin of the breast, such as developing hives or welts or an orange peel texture.
  • Differences from other forms of breast cancer and mastitis

    The reddish color of the breast that doctors associate with inflammatory breast cancer is one of the main differences between this and other forms of breast cancer.
    Other breast cancers usually start with a lump in the breast and have no color change.
    However, people sometimes mistake inflammatory breast cancer for another kind of cancer that has progressed significantly at one site.
    Mastitis, an infection affecting breastfeeding women, has many of the same symptoms as inflammatory breast cancer.
  • While mastitis will improve with antibiotics and the redness resolve, inflammatory breast cancer does not improve with antibiotics.
    Also, fever is not typical in inflammatory breast cancer but can be a symptom in advanced mastitis.

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