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Early Warning Signs of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Posted Jan 01 2010 8:43pm

Breast cancer is one disease that evokes fear in the hearts of many women. Thanks to research, better treatment options and early detection drives, fewer women are dying from the disease. Inflammatory breast cancer is rarer, affecting roughly 1-6 percent of women in the US. Unlike other breast cancer cases, this type is difficult to detect with mammography or ultrasound. This is largely due to the fact that it does not usually produce a lump, which would be detected by these standard tests.

It is so named because of its tendency to cause inflammation. Women who are affected usually experience swelling or redness in the breast. It has been noted that these signs can present themselves suddenly, which underscores the importance of being aware of early warning signs.

Early Warning Signs

As expected, there are signs which could alert women to the possibility of inflammatory breast cancer. This calls for vigilance on the part of each woman. To spot early warning signs, women should pay close attention to their breasts and note any changes, no matter how small. Somme early warning signs include:

  • Itching of the breast
  • Breast pain
  • A hard feeling to the breast
  • Breast discharge which may or may not be bloody
  • A warmer feeling to the breast than usual
  • Nipple retraction
  • Changes in the areola such as texture
  • Changes in the way the skin looks or feels
  • Bruising that is present for a long period
  • A lump may occur which changes size quickly
  • Breast swelling

Any woman who notices any of these signs or any other unusual changes in the breast should have it checked immediately. Inflammatory breast cancer has on occasion been misdiagnosed as mastitis.

Diagnosing Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Since this disease is difficult to detect with standard tests, different measures must be taken. This includes surgical biopsy although the usual tests may still be used in some cases. After an initial examination the doctor will order tests to confirm a diagnosis. With surgical biopsy, a small sample of cells or tissue is taken for examination by a pathologist.

Dealing with Inflammatory Breast Cancer

This type of breast cancer is known to be particularly aggressive. The cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the breast which is what cause the inflammation. The course of treatment usually includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormonal therapy. Recovery is also enhanced by a strong support structure to help the patient deal with the side effects of treatment. Survival rates are known to be lower than for women with non-inflammatory types of breast cancer. This should not cause alarm however as each case is different. Women should consult their doctors at the first sign of changes in their breast, so treatment can begin immediately if necessary.

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