Inflammatory breast cancer has no lump or mass that can be felt. It is a very rare and dangerous type of breast cancer. It cannot be detected by self breast examination and mammogram. In inflammatory breast cancer there is infiltration of the skin and lymph vessels of the breast by cancer cells. The symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer are a swollen, red and warm breast which is brought on by the lymph vessels becoming blocked by the breast cancer cells. The breast has a typical appearance of an individual with cellulite. Other symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include, on the affected side, enlarged lymph nodes present under the arm or it may be above the collar bone.
Since it cannot be diagnosed by self breast examination, mammogram, core biopsy, ultrasound scan or even an MRI it is diagnosed by a biopsy, that is, a surgical biopsy or a skin biopsy. Since inflammatory breast cancer is a rapid growing cancer it requires equally aggressive treatment, which includes local treatment and systemic or total body treatment.
The treatment usually starts with chemotherapy, systemic treatment, surgery and then radiation therapy, which are the local treatments; this is then followed by additional chemotherapy and then hormone treatments.
Some of the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer are:
o One breast is larger than the other
o There is a discharge from the nipple
o The skin is warm or hot to the touch
o Swelling of breast
o Orange like texture to the skin
o There is pain and/or the breast feels itchy
o Skin has a red or pink coloration
o There are swollen lymph nodes under the armpit and sometimes there may be swollen lymph nodes of the neck
o The nipples appear to be flattened or inverted
o The entire breast or a small portion of the breast has a rash
o There are ridges or thickened areas of the breast.
If an individual has any of the above symptoms which persist for more than a week it is necessary that the individual speak with her physician who would then take the necessary course of action.
However, sometimes, there are very common mistakes made when it comes to treating inflammatory breast cancer. They are:
o The surgeon may think it is best if the breast is removed and sometimes the breast is removed too early. This early removal of the breast increases the risk of the disease making reappearance.
o Patients may not get the specific chemotherapy dose and also the patient may require two treatments of radiation therapy a day rather than only one treatment, as inflammatory breast cancer is a rapid growing cancer. This is where the importance of an experienced radiologist in inflammatory breast cancer is necessary.
o If a patient has had got the improper or incorrect treatment it will be difficult to go back and improve on the outcome.
oIt is extremely difficult to measure the response to the treatment, as a mass or a nodule is not present in inflammatory breast cancer.
There is no particular age at which an individual could get the disease. However, studies have shown that the average age ranges from about 45 and 55 years of age, but patients could be younger or older than this age range. The amount of new cases of inflammatory breast cancer diagnosed every year in the United States varies.