Many women know that a lump, pain or some other abnormality in the breast may be indicative of breast cancer. But a rash, redness or swelling may also be linked to a rare form of breast cancer known as inflammatory breast cancer.

Understanding inflammatory breast cancer

Published Oct 5, 2017 at 12:00pm

Many women know that a lump, pain or some other abnormality in the breast may be indicative of breast cancer. But a rash, redness or swelling may also be linked to a rare form of breast cancer known as inflammatory breast cancer.

Inflammatory breast cancer, or IBC, accounts for roughly 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancers in the United States. The symptoms of IBC can differ from symptoms of other forms of breast cancer, and a rash-like appearance may be part of it, according to Healthline.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., says IBC is a fast-growing breast cancer that infiltrates the skin and lymph vessels of the breast. When IBC is present, no distinct tumor or lump can be felt and isolated in the breast. Instead, earlier symptoms include the appearance of a rash or small irritation that may be mistaken for an insect bite. Over time, the irritation can become more red, swollen and warm. Other changes to the breast skin may occur, including nipple inversion or flattening, a pitted appearance to the skin or dimpling. This dimpling is caused by a buildup of fluid in the breast that’s due to cancer cells blocking the lymph vessels. This prevents the fluid from draining normally. 

IBC is a very fast-moving cancer. By the time symptoms are discovered, IBC may already have advanced to Stage 3, necessitating aggressive treatment. This usually includes a combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormone treatments. 

Breast cancer comes in many different forms and can present in various ways. Never overlook any abnormality on or around the breast.