Inflammatory breast cancer: 4 points you should know about

Inflammatory breast cancer: 4 points you should know about

Out of the four different types of breast cancers, Inflammatory breast cancer is one rare type that affects 1-5 percent of the total cases of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is somewhat distinct from all other types as the signs, symptoms, progression of cancer and even its treatment differ. This cancer grows at an exponential rate, affecting the cells and lymphatic system under the breast skin. The effects of this breast cancer on skin, eventually appear at later stages.

Inflammatory breast cancer: 4 points you should know about

The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer:

As mentioned earlier, the signs and symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer are not that of typical breast cancer. One of the earliest signs of breast cancer is the presence of a lump within the breast. However, in the case of inflammatory breast cancer, no lumps form. This breast cancer on the skin thrives in the form of sheets or nets within the breast tissue and the lymphatic system.

In the early stages of inflammatory breast cancer, you might notice minor itching or irritation on the breast skin, looking just like an insect bite. Over time, symptoms start appearing quickly which include:

  • Pain within the breast.
  • Unexpected swelling of the breast.
  • Increase in size.
  • Nipple discharge or inversion of the nipple occurs.
  • Itching of the breast becomes persistent.
  • Lymph nodes of the neck and under armpits become swollen.
  • The breast feels warm.
  • The breast skin turns pink or red with bumps all over. The thickness of the skin also increases, resembling an orange peel.

The aforementioned symptoms are also seen in another medical condition named, mastitis. It is a breast infection that can easily be treated within a week using antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. Yet, if the pain, swelling, and redness don’t reduce after a week, it is best to visit an oncologist for further evaluation and on-time treatment.

Differences of Inflammatory Breast Cancer with other type of Breast Cancer

When compared to other types, this breast cancer on the skin known as inflammatory breast cancer has a distinct pattern of progression. Let’s take at some of the differences:

  • Breast lumps develop rarely. You could have redness of breast skin and swell without any lumps.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer develops exponentially when compared to other types.
  • Most commonly diagnosed in African-American women.
  • It is very difficult to identify this cancer on a mammograph and is vaguely visible.
  • Overweight women are more likely to get affected.
  • Symptoms appear when cancer starts spreading past the breast to other tissues of the body, thus, this cancer is deemed as challenging to treat in such instances.

Different stages of Inflammatory breast cancer:

Inflammatory breast cancer is classified as stage 3 cancer. In simple words, this means that the cancerous cells from the tumor have started invading nearby tissue and the lymph vessels, but have not yet infiltrated the lymphatic system to travel to other parts of the body. Doctors label this stage as an advanced form of cancer.

This unique breast cancer on skin is divided into three sub-stages:

Stage IIIB: The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer start appearing at this stage and breast skin changes become visible.

Stage IIIC: At this stage, the tumor breaks-free and cancer cells start invading the lymphatic vessels within the breast. Slowly, the tumor cells infiltrate the lymph nodes within the chest wall up till the collarbone.

Stage IV: Cancer spread at this stage is exponential. Lymph nodes become compromised and let tumor cells travel to distant parts of the body where they further infiltrate organs and surrounding tissue.

Diagnosis of Inflammatory breast cancer:

As we mentioned earlier, your doctor may confuse this breast cancer on skin for a breast infection. If there are no improvements in the symptoms after subsequent treatment, further evaluation is required that might include one or several of the diagnostic procedures mentioned below:

  • This diagnostic technique shows the difference in skin thickness of the breast.
  • CT and MRI scan for detailed examination.
  • PET scan to identify the lymph nodes affected by the cancerous cells.
  • Ultrasound examination.
  • Breast skin or tissue biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. The collected sample is then examined by a pathologist that identifies the type of cell growth linked with inflammatory breast cancer or in layman language, breast cancer on skin.

Conclusion about Inflammatory breast cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is no doubt, fast-growing cancer. It is also worth noting that it has more chances of coming back when compared to other types. How cancer progresses is linked to various factors such as your current health condition or an existing disease that could trigger cancer. Furthermore, the type of cancer treatment received, how your body responded to it and the time when your breast cancer was diagnosed, are all of utmost importance.

Novel diagnostic methods and therapeutics for cancer management and treatment have been developed and tested by renowned pharmaceutical conglomerates working in collaboration with top healthcare research companies. Soon we might be able to cope up with this breast cancer on skin and other types with promising results.

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