Inflammatory breast cancer is diagnosed based on signs and symptoms. The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer usually take 3-6 months to develop. The most common symptoms of inflammatory breast tumour are redness, swelling, warmth, change in breast size, orange-peel appearance, other skin changes, swelling of lymph nodes, flattening or nipple inversion, aching or burning, lump in the breast. Usually, inflammatory breast cancer is confused with breast infection being more common.
Signs and Symptoms of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer may pop up quickly and within a short time. A symptom can be something that only the person experiencing it can describe and identify, such as nausea, fatigue, or pain. A sign is something that someone other than the person can remember, like a rash, fever, or an elevated pulse. Altogether, signs and symptoms can help understand and explain a medical problem. Sometimes, people with inflammatory breast cancer may not have any of the signs and symptoms mentioned below 1. Or, the reason for a symptom or sign may be a medical condition that is not cancer.
Symptoms of Inflammatory breast cancer usually take just 3-6 months to develop 2.
- Redness of the Breast – Redness involving part or all of the breast is a hallmark of inflammatory breast cancer. Sometimes the redness comes and goes.
- Swelling of the breast – Part of or all of the breast may be swollen, enlarged, and hard.
- Warmth – The breast may feel warm.
- Change in breast size – The affected breast may appear noticeably more significant than the other breast or feel heavy and stiff.
- Orange-peel appearance – Your breast may swell and look like the peel of a navel orange (“peau d’orange”).
- Other skin changes – The skin of the breast might look pink or bruised, or you may have ridges, welts, or hives on your Breast.
- Swelling of lymph nodes – The lymph nodes under your arm, above or below the collarbone, may be swollen which is a Symptoms of Inflammatory Breast cancer.
- Flattening or inversion of the nipple – The nipple may go flat or turn inward.
- Aching or burning – Your breast may hurt or feel tender.
- A lump in the Breast, although mostly there is no distinct lump.
If you are worried about any changes you are experiencing in your breast, please consult your doctor. The doctor will ask how long and how frequently you’ve been experiencing the symptom, in addition to other questions. This helps figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.
Relieving symptoms is an integral part of cancer care, and treatment of cancer is diagnosed.
When to See a Doctor
Inflammatory breast cancer is usually confused with a breast infection, which is generally more common. It’s justifiable and normal to be treated with antibiotics for a week or more. If the symptoms respond to antibiotics, additional testing should not be necessary. But if the redness does not ameliorate, the doctor may consider more severe causes of the symptoms, like inflammatory breast cancer. Contact your doctor if you’ve been treated for a breast infection, but the signs and symptoms persist.
- 1.Hester RH, Hortobagyi GN, Lim B. Inflammatory breast cancer: early recognition and diagnosis is critical. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Published online October 2021:392-396. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2021.04.217
- 2.van Uden DJP, van Laarhoven HWM, Westenberg AH, de Wilt JHW, Blanken-Peeters CFJM. Inflammatory breast cancer: An overview. Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology. Published online February 2015:116-126. doi:10.1016/j.critrevonc.2014.09.003