Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is an advanced form of cancer that is more aggressive but harder to detect than other forms of breast cancer, according to information from the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the National Cancer Institute.
IBC accounts for 1 percent to 5 percent of breast cancer cases, the cancer institute says, and even though it tends to strike younger women than more common breast cancers, the survival rate is lower. The cancer institute says 25 percent to 50 percent of IBC patients survive five years.
The lower survival rate reflects that IBC grows rapidly and that it’s difficult to catch early because there usually isn’t a lump. That means the much-promoted self-exam for breast lumps usually won’t catch IBC, and increased breast density might be the only sign on a mammogram.
IBC grows in lymph tissues just below the skin, and the clogging of the lymph vessels produces the redness and heat.
The IBC Research Foundation says one or more of the following symptoms are common: swelling of the breast, usually sudden, as much as a cup size in a few days; itching; pink, red or dark-colored area, sometimes with a texture similar to the skin of an orange; ridges and thickened areas of the skin; nipple retraction; nipple discharge; breast warmth; breast pain; and change in color and texture of the areola.
Many of those symptoms also occur in benign situations, however. As happened in Laura Vickers’ case, the symptoms often are mistaken for a breast infection called mastitis.
Also like Vickers, “a surprising portion of young women with IBC had their first symptoms during pregnancy or lactation,” the foundation says.