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Breast cancer awareness: What is inflammatory breast cancer?

Breast Cancer Aware 2According to the National Cancer Institute, inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare and very aggressive disease in which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. This type of breast cancer is called “inflammatory” because the breast often looks swollen and red, or “inflamed.”

Inflammatory breast cancer accounts for one to five percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the United States. Most inflammatory breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas, which means they developed from cells that line the milk ducts of the breast and then spread beyond the ducts.

Inflammatory breast cancer progresses rapidly, often in a matter of weeks or months.

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include swelling and redness that affect a third or more of the breast. The skin of the breast may also appear pink, reddish purple or bruised. In addition, the skin may have ridges or appear pitted. Other symptoms may be: a rapid increase in breast size; sensations of heaviness, burning, or tenderness in the breast; or a nipple that is inverted.

It is important to note that these symptoms may also be signs of other diseases or conditions, such as an infection, injury, or another type of breast cancer that is locally advanced. For this reason, women with inflammatory breast cancer often have a delayed diagnosis.

Please notify your primary care provider if you notice any changes in your breast.

About Lisa Michels

Lisa Michels, APNP, nurse practitioner, works collaboratively with the Agnesian Cancer Care team helping patients effectively manage symptoms associated with their cancer treatments. She also works with Agnesian HealthCare surgeons and radiologists to identify individuals at increased risk for breast and other cancers. Her passion is in early detection and prevention of breast cancer, as well as monitoring the status of breast cancer survivors.

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