A rare but very aggressive type of cancer is Inflammatory breast cancer. The mortality rate for Inflammatory breast cancer is higher than that for most other cancers. Contrary to its name, it doesn’t occur because of some inflammation; rather, inflammation is just a symptom in IBC. It is not confined to older women and can develop in very young women, too. Men are not totally protected from IBC, even though their risk is too low.
In Inflammatory breast cancer, the cancer cells block lymph vessels of the breast. This gives rise to the apparent inflammation and redness of the breast of a person diagnosed with IBC. Other forms of cancer usually develop in women as they age, but that is not the case with IBC. It can occur in young women, too. It is also said that African American women are more prone to developing IBC, and at a younger age too, compared to White women.
The progression of IBC is its most alarming feature. The time lapse between the first symptom appearing and the cancer reaching a very advanced stage may be leek than two weeks. This however, may be one of the reasons for early diagnosis of IBC, since the symptoms are very apparent early on due to the cancer’s fast advancement.
It is not necessary that a lump be formed if you have IBC. This makes the cancer very undetectable, as many women do not seek proper medical help if they have no lumps in their breasts. Also, without a lump, diagnostic techniques like mammography and ultrasounds can not be relied upon, and the cancer can go undiagnosed. If you show symptoms of Inflammatory breast cancer, insist on a biopsy.
If you have developed IBC, your breast will appear extremely red or purple, often bruised and tender. The breast also gets enormously swelled, giving rise to its inflamed look. The breast size will increase rapidly, and there might be perpetual itching, too. You might get inverted nipples, a heavy aching and burning feel around the breast. The skin around the breast may also appear bumpy, like the skin of an orange, which gives name to the condition’s medical term, peau d’orange. This condition occurs due to fluid accumulation. Other symptoms are changes of color or texture in the skin around the nipple (areola), swelling of the nipple, swelling under the arm and on top and below the collarbone.
IBC is often misdiagnosed as mastitis, a breast cancer infection accompanied with redness and swelling of the breast. The most important thing to remember here is that symptoms persist even after two weeks of treatment for IBC, which is not the case with mastitis. It is also good to know that previous chest operations may partially block your breast lymph vessels, and this is not a breast cancer condition.
The treatment for Inflammatory breast cancer has greatly improved over the last few years. When the mortality rate used to be 100% few years back, today, around 60% women diagnosed with IBC live through their natural life-span. For treating IBC, a combination of therapies is required. Doctors usually start with chemotherapy and hormonal treatment, and follow it up with neoadjuvant therapy and mastectomy, after which, radiation therapy is highly recommended to prevent a recurrence of cancer.
Through all the misery of Inflammatory breast cancer, you should remember the figures of mortality rate decreasing immensely. These indicate that you have a great chance of fighting if off and being happy like all other people that you know.