Identifying the Silent Killer: Inflammatory Breast Cancer

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If ever there was a breast cancer in need of increased awareness, it's inflammatory breast cancer. IBC, also known as the silent killer, is a quickly spreading cancer that starts on the skin. Most of the time, there's no lump. This post is short and sweet with one take-home message -- know the signs of IBC.

Why the urgency?
Inflammatory breast cancer is a killer cancer. Caught early, treatment has a better chance. IBC is a "master metastasizer". For many women, IBC has already spread to lymph nodes and beyond by the time of diagnosis.

Signs and symptoms:

  • • Increase in breast size, increasing to 2-3 times the size of the normal breast in a matter of a week or two.
  • • Redness, rash or blotchiness of the breast. Some women report that it looks like a bug bite.
  • • Pain and/or soreness of the breast. 
  • • Lump, thickening or dimpling of the skin of the breast. 
  • • Warmth or tenderness of the breast.
  • • Lymph node swelling under the arm.
  • • Flattening of the nipple or discharge from the nipple.

You don't have to have all the symptoms. If you see some of these signs, contact your doctor. If your doctor prescribes a round of antibiotics and the symptoms do not resolve, don't wait. Ask for a referral to a specialist who knows inflammatory breast cancer. Help fight this silent killer by knowing the signs. Knowledge is power.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer Toolkit (PDF)
Podcast: Inflammatory breast cancer -- Know the symptoms (Mayo Clinic)

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