Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms can develop quickly, often over a period of a few weeks, and they typically occur together. This rare and aggressive form of cancer, which infiltrates the breast skin and lymph vessels, usually goes undetected by mammographies and ultrasounds. Furthermore, the signs are similar and often attributed to the symptoms associated with breast infection, or mastitis, making the true underlying condition particularly difficult to recognize. A diagnosis is usually based on a physician’s clinical judgment and confirmed with a biopsy, so it is very important for a woman who experiences unusual symptoms to seek prompt medical attention.
What Are the Early Signs of Inflammatory Breast Cancer?
Common inflammatory breast cancer symptoms include:
- Breast warmth
- Redness or rash that covers more than one-third of a breast
- Thickened breast skin with a texture that resembles an orange peel
- Nipple inversion, flattening or dimpling
- Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
- Breast tenderness or itchiness
- Sudden breast asymmetry
- A bruise on a breast that doesn’t go away
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, near the collarbone or in the underarm areas
Symptoms are often caused by fluid buildup in the skin of the breast. This can happen when the cancer cells block the skin’s lymph vessels and keep the fluid from flowing normally. Unlike most other forms of breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer does not generally appear as a lump or mass, although it can in some cases.
Any woman who is concerned about her breast cancer risk or would like to have her symptoms evaluated can consult with a board-certified physician at Moffitt Cancer Center. We offer a complete breast program that provides patients with the opportunity to receive advice, treatment, support and multiple expert opinions – all in a single location, and all without the need for referrals.