Diagnosing IBC

What is IBC?

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) is THE MOST aggressive type of breast cancer in which the cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. This type of breast cancer is called “inflammatory” because the breast often looks swollen and red, or “inflamed”, sometimes overnight. One of the unusual characteristics of IBC is that there is rarely a lump in the breast. If you think you might have IBC, please visit a doctor immediately for a full diagnosis.

Images of IBC

Symptoms of IBC

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed. The best known symptoms of IBC include the following:

  • A breast that appears discolored; (red, purple, pink or bruised)
  • Redness, rash or blotchiness on the breast 
  • A warm feeling in the breast (or may feel hot/ warm to the touch)
  • A tender, firm and/or enlarged breast (sometimes overnight)
  • Persistent itching of the breast (not relieved with cream or salve)
  • Flattening or retraction of the nipple
  • Consistent pain and/or soreness of the breast (shooting or stabbing pain)
  • A hardened area in the breast similar to a pencil lead (not a lump)
  • Thickened areas of breast tissue 
  • Lymph node swelling under the arm or above the collarbone
  • Swollen or crusted skin on the nipple
  • Change in color of the skin around the nipple (areola)
  • Discharge from the nipple
  • Ridged or dimpled skin texture - similar to an orange peel (see images above)

If one or more of these symptoms continue for more than a week, talk to a physician immediately, and find an expert with experience in treating this particular type of breast cancer. Many women have to demand that their physicians “rule out” IBC, and (therefore) become their own best advocate, as more education is needed in the medical community regarding this form of breast cancer.