Inflammatory breast cancer takes lives of most of the people who develop it. It is a very “hostile” type of cancer, which thankfully, is also rare. It gets its name from the inflammation the breasts of the victim develop. Contrary to other forms of cancer, inflammatory breast cancer can develop in relatively younger females, too. Rarely do men develop IBC.
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.
Inflammatory breast cancer can start showing symptoms early on, and become very advanced within a matter or few days. This can be very sad, especially when women delay seeking medical advice regarding the symptoms, as the cancer can advance very rapidly, and it can be very late already, when they seek medical help. However, the symptoms for IBC are so alarming that women almost immediately seek advice, and this is one reason for relatively earlier diagnosis of Inflammatory breast cancer, in most cases.
The unique characteristic of Inflammatory breast cancer is that no lump formation is associated with it. This characteristic makes it all the more dangerous, because mammography and ultrasound can not detect it, and it often goes undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed. Biopsy is the best method for diagnosing IBC.
The typical attributes of Inflammatory breast cancer are extreme redness, purple-ish bruised appearance, and swelling of the breast, which makes it look inflamed, hence the cancer’s name. The blocking of the lymph vessels by the cancer cells is the reason for both redness and swelling. Continual itching, a fast and constant increase in size of the breast, inverted nipples, tenderness, aches, heavy and burning sensations are all associated with Inflammatory breast cancer. Sometimes, the skin of the breast may also appear pitted, medically called peau d’orange, and this is due to swelling and accumulation of fluids. Also, the areola or the skin around the nipple can change in color, the skin of the nipple can swell, and lymph nodes on either side of the collarbone and under the arm can swell.
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.
The high mortality rate, the extensive treatments, the fear because of uncertainty of results, and all the other woes Inflammatory breast cancer can bring you will naturally put you down and scare you. Your fear is justified, but you must remember that technology has advanced exponentially over the last few years. If you keep hope, all the technology will just go into curing you.