Uncommon, But Very Deadly

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is an unusual and often forgotten type of breast cancer. It accounts for 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancers. IBC is often misdiagnosed in the early stages. Yet, it is an extremely aggressive kind of breast cancer that occurs most often in young women. Many cases are not diagnosed until the cancer has spread. The five year survival rate is only 25 to 50 percent. Women are not generally aware of IBC and are often ignorant of its symptoms.


The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer DO NOT include a lump. Palpating the breast during a monthly self-exam will not reveal IBC. However, inspection of the breast in a mirror will often reveal the telltale changes of IBC. Symptoms can develop over weeks rather than months.


Symptoms of IBC include:

  • Redness, swelling and warmth
  • Heaviness, burning, itching
  • Inverted nipple (a nipple that is pulled inward).


As with all breast cancer, men are not immune. However, inflammatory breast cancer occurs in men at an older age than it does in women. But it is just as aggressive.


Unfortunately, the symptoms of IBC may also be signs of other problems, such as a breast infection or injury. Nevertheless, the symptoms should not be ignored. Inflammatory breast cancer is very aggressive. If the symptoms do not go away rapidly with treatment by your healthcare provider, suspicion of IBC should increase. Further testing is necessary. These tests include: mammogram, biopsy and ultrasound.


Treatment for IBC includes chemotherapy, targeted therapy, surgery, radiation therapy, and hormonal therapy.


For more information on inflammatory breast cancer, please see LINK.


I would like to thank my friend Marj for reminding me about this often forgotten breast cancer.


Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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