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What Are Some Inflammatory Breast Cancer Impostors?

Tracking Down Symptoms of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

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Updated April 16, 2014

We often associate breast cancer with a lump, but not every form of this disease appears as a lump. Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) has no lumps because it grows in sheets and nests. Because the symptoms often appear to be less threatening, IBC is often misdiagnosed. IBC is often mistaken for mastitis, and antibiotics are prescribed.

These conditions may look like IBC, but they are noncancerous and will respond to antibiotics and ointments:

See Your Doctor for These Symptoms:

  • sudden growth in breast size
  • redness, rash, or bruised look of breast skin (persisting more than 10 days)
  • steady itching of breast skin or nipple
  • nipple pulling into aureola (retracted)
  • thickening of breast tissue or breast skin
  • breast skin appears rough like orange peel
  • very painful or sore breast
  • breast feels hot
  • swollen lymph nodes under your arm or above your collarbone

IBC and Mammograms

Inflammatory breast cancer will show up on a mammogram, but not as clearly as a lump or cyst. IBC would appear to a radiologist as a thickening of the skin or diffusely dense breast tissue.

Even if you recently had a clear mammogram, if you see the symptoms listed above, please consult your doctor immediately.

References:
IBC Research Foundation. IBC Slide Presentation (PDF document). Last Updated: 10/30/05. IBC Research Foundation
National Cancer Institute. Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Questions and Answers. Last Updated: 8/29/2006. Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Questions and Answers
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