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What are the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC)?

Symptoms of IBC may include redness, swelling, and warmth in the breast, often without a distinct lump in the breast. The redness and warmth are caused by cancer cells blocking the lymph vessels in the skin. The skin of the breast may also appear pink, reddish purple, or bruised. The skin may also have ridges or appear pitted, like the skin of an orange (called peau d'orange), which is caused by a buildup of fluid and edema (swelling) in the breast. Other symptoms include heaviness, burning, aching, increase in breast size, tenderness, or a nipple that is inverted (facing inward). These symptoms usually develop quickly - over a period of weeks or months. Swollen lymph nodes may also be present under the arm, above the collarbone, or in both places. However, it is important to note that these symptoms may also be signs of other conditions such as infection, injury, or other types of cancer.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute

Unlike other breast cancers, inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) rarely causes breast lumps and may not appear on a mammogram. Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:
  • Red, swollen, itchy breast that is tender to the touch.
  • The surface of the breast may take on a ridged or pitted appearance, similar to an orange peel (often called peau d’orange).
  • Heaviness, burning or aching in one breast.
  • One breast is visibly larger than the other.
  • Inverted nipple (facing inward).
  • No mass is felt with a breast self-exam.
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm and/or above the collarbone.
  • Symptoms unresolved after a course of antibiotics.
Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) may seem like an infection -- redness, swelling and warmth -- without a distinct lump in the breast. Other symptoms of IBC can include the following:
  • Red, pink, reddish purple or bruised look to the skin
  • Skin that appears pitted or to have ridges
  • Breast heaviness
  • Burning
  • Aching
  • Increase in breast size
  • Tenderness
  • Inverted nipple
  • Swollen lymph nodes
Symptoms of IBC usually develop quickly -- over a period of weeks or months. Cancer cells blocking the lymph vessels in the skin cause the redness and warmth. Changes in the skin's appearance signal a buildup of fluid.

The same symptoms may also be signs of other conditions such as infection, injury or other types of cancer. It is important for women experiencing any of these symptoms to see their doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.