Facebook Pixel

Inflammatory Breast Cancer: The Other Cancer

Rate This

By Brie Cadman / Divine Caroline

Most women know what to look for with breast cancer — a suspicious lump during a self-exam, an abnormal spot on a mammogram. However, there’s another type of breast cancer that most women haven’t heard of that doesn’t have the telltale tumor.

Instead, it appears more like an infection — red and irritated skin, with breast tenderness or swelling. But because these unusual symptoms are often ignored, overlooked, or misdiagnosed, knowing about inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a rare but aggressive form of breast cancer, can be life-saving.

The Other Breast Cancer
With IBC, which accounts for 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancer cases in the United States, the typical early warning signs of a lump or abnormal mammogram may be missing. Underlying cancer cells block lymphatic tissues, causing the breast to swell and change color. The symptoms often mimic an infection. According to the National Cancer Institute, things to look for include:

* Redness, swelling, and warmth in the breast, often without a distinct lump
* Skin that appears pink, red, purple, or bruised; the skin may also have ridges or appear pitted.
* Heaviness, burning, aching, tenderness in a breast, an increase in breast size, or an inverted nipple
* Rapid change in the appearance of a breast, over the course of days, weeks, or months

In addition, sometimes lymph nodes under the arm or above the collarbone can become swollen.

It’s important to note that these symptoms don’t necessarily mean IBC. Other conditions, including benign breast infection (mastitis), injury, surgery, or other cancers can also be the cause. However, misdiagnosis can delay important treatment, so it’s critical to follow up when unusual changes in the breast are noticed.

What Causes It?
Like other types of breast cancer, the exact cause of IBC is unknown. What is known is that women with IBC tend to be diagnosed at a younger age than those who have other breast cancers; the average age of diagnosis is fifty-nine, which is three to seven years younger than the average age at diagnosis for other types.

Add a Comment1 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Thank you for this post. I am scheduling first thing Monday for a mammogram. Three days ago I had a pea size lump appear with burning pain. By the next morning it was bright red and hurting really bad. I called my pcp and the office said get the test. So here it is Saturday and the redness seems to be localized to the area of the lump. I was wondering if there are other symptoms with this? I have lost more than 20 lbs in 3 months. Which I really thought was a blessing until this lump showed up. Now I realize that I did have a couple of days in the past couple of months where I spent nearly half a day with a burning pain in my breast, it went away and I blew it off and went on with my life. Now, I just pray. Thank you again for this information.

February 1, 2014 - 11:43am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Breast Cancer

Get Email Updates

Related Checklists

Breast Cancer Guide


Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!