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Inflammatory Breast Cancer

You hear quite a bit of news and information on the television about breast cancer, but most involve women finding a lump in their breasts or near their underarms. Inflammatory breast cancer is an advanced and accelerated form of breast cancer that is often not detected by mammograms. It is the most deadly of all breast cancers because by the time you realize you have it, you are usually in the later stages of breast cancer. It also can affect teenagers – an age group that normally does not have to worry much about breast cancer.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often not detected by mammograms because it does not create a lump. It grows as sheets rather than a lump, so there is no noticeable mass. It may be mistaken for mastitis, a breast infection. Because the symptoms are similar, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to treat mastitis. If that doesn't cure the symptoms within a week, he or she will probably want to perform a biopsy.

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:

  • Dramatic increase in breast size in a short period of time
  • Itching that cream cannot relieve
  • A rough patch of pink, red or dark colored skin (similar to orange peel)
  • Thick areas of the skin or ridges
  • Something that looks like bruising that doesn’t heal
  • Nipple flattening or retraction
  • Nipple discharge
  • Breast is warm when touched
  • Breast is harder or firmer than normal
  • Change in the color or texture of the areola
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm

Some of these symptoms are also present in non-cancerous breast disorders, so if you experience any of them, do not panic, but do call your doctor for an exam as soon as possible.

Once inflammatory breast cancer is diagnosed, it must be aggressively treated because it is so accelerated. It is normal for the doctor to order chemotherapy before suggesting surgery or radiation. By treating the cancer with chemotherapy, it can shrink it to have a more successful surgery rate. After the chemotherapy, the doctor may suggest radiation therapy. Radiation therapy stops the cancer from growing. After initial treatment, patiens may receive additional treatments to reduce the risk of reoccurrence. Unfortunately, inflammatory breast cancer also has a higher rate of recurrence than other forms of breast cancer. However, as with all breast cancers, early detection and treatment can give a better hope of long-term survival.

One of the most important parts of inflammatory breast cancer care is support. Patients who can get in contact with other inflammatory breast cancer patients – either in person or online – can see that they are not alone and have someone they can talk to who can truly understand what they are going through. Many times the cancer and treatments cause psychological, social, and even spiritual problems that need to be treated with support. Meeting with a social worker, counselor, or a member of their clergy can help by allowing them to talk about their feelings and fears.

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