Inflammatory Breast Cancer: “No Lump, Still Cancer”

Inflammatory Breast Cancer: “No Lump, Still Cancer”

Of all the types of breast cancers out there (breast cancer is not one singular disease but many different types), inflammatory breast cancer is… especially frustrating. It is one of the most deadly with poor 5-year survival rates and frequent advanced stage at diagnosis.

In fact the only good thing about inflammatory breast cancer is that it’s rare, making up about 2-5% of breast cancer cases. Unfortunately, rare also means that there’s not a lot of information about the topic – so let’s enlighten ourselves.

First off, inflammatory breast cancer presents differently than many breast cancers, most importantly presenting with symptoms over a short time – often less than 3 months. A mass is usually not the initial feature. The way it presents can be confused for mastitis with features like swelling and redness of a large portion of the involved breast. The findings on mammography are not specific and may also mimic infection.

The most common features of inflammatory breast cancer include: 

  • redness

  • bruising

  • inflammation or swelling

  • warmth

  • itching

  • tenderness

  • enlarged lymph nodes

  • flattening of the nipple

  • changes in skin texture of the breast – often called “peau d’orange” as it does look just like the peel of an orange

…these are all potential signs of a problem. If any of the above are present, see your medical provider. Please.

For more information, we recommend the movie The IBC Project. Enlightening, quirky, heart-strings-tugging and sincere, we like this young documentarian’s take on inflammatory breast cancer and the fight to educate patients and medical care providers alike about this seldom-spoken-of disease.

Additionally, the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation has more resources for education and treatment.




Originally published 1/28/14 on