Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Are You At Risk?

BlogHer Original Post

Not all breast cancers are created equal...And of all types of breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer is the most deadly (as well as on the rise).  The reason it is so deadly is because it is virtually invisible.

So, what makes inflammatory breast cancer so much more deadly than other types of breast cancer?

For starters, it can not be detected with a mammogram.   It might as well be called the invisible breast cancer.   And without a method for early detection, this type of cancer is most always not diagnosed until the end stage (which brings the survival rate even lower).

Another obstacle with this type of cancer is...

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer are nothing like symptoms of other breast cancers.  In fact, symptoms of this deadly form of cancer are often mistaken for mastitis (a painful but treatable condition).  This type of misdiagnosis only further delays a woman's diagnosis and treatment.  So, by the time most women are diagnosed, their cancer has already spread.

Understanding how this type of cancer is different from other breast cancers is the key to early detection.  Here are the symptoms of Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)...

  • A rapid and unusual increase in the size of the breast.
  • Red blotchy rash or other skin discoloration of the breast.
  • Breast is hot (feverish) to the touch.
  • A persistent itch of the breast and/or nipple.
  • Flattening or retracting of nipple.
  • Thickening of breast tissue.
  • Pain or soreness of the breast.
  • Nipple discharge and/or change in the pigmentation around the nipple.
  • Swelling of lymph nodes under the arm or above the collar bone.
  • A dimpling or "orange peel" feel to the breast.

These symptoms will most likely come on very quickly.  As Dr. Robert Schneider told us at a Breast Cancer Forum in San Francisco last month, it's not unusual for a woman to go to bed one night and by the morning wake-up with the onset of many of the above symptoms.

Although I was glad to have the opportunity to hear about Dr. Schneider's promising new research,  I was shocked to find out that there has been little to no research done on IBC in the last 20 years.  [Actually, I was MAD as hell.  Maybe my friend Becky would be alive today if someone had just cared enough to do a little research.  Seven years ago we thought Becky was getting cutting edge treatment, clearly that wasn't the case.]

As if the difficulty in making a diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer isn't bad enough...Treatments that are effective in other types of breast cancer are ineffective for IBC, but many oncologists are still treating it the same.  For this reason, Dr. Schneider recommends that women go directly to a cancer center for both treatment and diagnosis (something my friend Becky was discouraged from doing).  The good news is that research and clinical studies are now being done that may soon provide doctors with better treatments for IBC.  Until then, women need to be their own advocates, and help drive more awareness to inflammatory breast cancer.

Also See...

Kickin' Cancer's Ass - Inflammatory Breast Cancer

I Can't Complain Any More Than Usual

Contributing Editor Nordette wrote Mothers, daughters, and dealing.

In October I wrote about Fear and Breast Cancer for BlogHer...I hadn't wanted it to be a personal piece, but in response to a comment on that post, I did end up divulging a painful personal story.

As a member of the American Cancer Society's Blogger Advisory Council, I wrote for the first time about the devastating loss of My Friend Becky to inflammatory breast cancer for their More Birthday's campaign.

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
Also at