Inflammatory breast cancer, the most aggressive form of breast cancer, starts in the breast skin. It is commonly misdiagnosed as mastitis or dermatitis as the skin over the breast becomes very inflamed and swollen.
Inflammatory breast carcinoma is caused by the appearance of an abnormal cell in one of the breast’s ducts. The DNA in this abnormal cell mutates, causing the abnormal cell to grow and divide rapidly. The fast accumulating abnormal cells enter and block the lymphatic vessels within the breast. This blockage leads to the breasts appearing red, swollen and the skin covering the breasts taking on a dimpled appearance.
Inflammatory breast carcinoma usually grows in nests or sheets, rather than as a solid tumor. Inflammatory breast cancer cells are diffused throughout the breast with no palpable mass, which is therefore indiscernible in a breast self examination. For this reason, many women who have inflammatory breast cancer may remain undiagnosed for long periods.
What makes inflammatory breast cancer even harder to detect in its early stages is that a surprising portion of young women with inflammatory breast cancer have their first symptoms during pregnancy or lactation. Any early symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer may be mistaken for mastitis, which refer to inflammation or infection of the breast which may occur in breastfeeding mothers. Symptoms of mastitis are very similar, such as redness, soreness and swelling of the breast tissue.
Furthermore, the misconception that young women are at lower risk for breast cancer may lead them to defer undergoing any form of breast cancer tests. By the time a diagnosis for inflammatory breast cancer is made, the cancer may already have resulted in metastases.
It is therefore important to learn to recognize the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer for early detection to improve your chances of inflammatory breast cancer survival. Looking at photos of inflammatory breast cancer such as the one on the left will help you to identify inflammatory breast cancer symptoms.