Women know to look for a lump. We do our monthly self-exam and see our healthcare practitioners every year for our check-up. No lump = no cancer, right? Not necessarily.
Inflammatory breast cancer doesn’t have to have a lump. In fact, it can start out with redness of the skin. It may cause your breast to enlarge or swell, be tender, warm to the touch, look like an infection, or look like mastitis, which can happen during breast-feeding! The cancer cells plug up the lymphatic vessels in the skin, not allowing fluid to drain away, which causes the breast to change color and swell.
This is a fairly uncommon cancer, although aggressive in nature. It doesn’t improve with antibiotics if you suspected an infection, nor does it improve with typical mastitis treatments. Women may suspect they have a rash on their breast and let it go before seeing their healthcare practitioner. Don’t wait! If you have any of these symptoms and they do not improve after treatment, then see your doctor! Typical diagnosis is made through mammogram, possibly ultrasound or MRI and biopsy. Because there isn’t a lump, biopsy of the skin is important.
Doing a self-exam every month is just as critical as examining your skin in a mirror to look for any color, texture or nipple changes. If you find something, have it checked out right away, because this is your health we’re talking about!