Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Symptoms and Diagnosis

BCMG-Inflamitory-Breast-CancerInflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a form of cancer in which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the breast. Inflammatory breast cancer is rare, accounting for only 1-5% of all breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S., but it is often aggressive and should be treated immediately.


While most women may be looking for a lump during a breast exam, other breast cancer symptoms may show up long before a lump. It’s important to look at the outside of your breasts as well as feel for a lump. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

  • Swelling and redness are the most common symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer. The redness may come and go.
  • The skin of the breast may have ridges or appear slightly bumpy, like the skin of an orange.
  • Feeling of heaviness or tenderness in the breast.


If your doctor suspects that you might have inflammatory breast cancer, you will undergo additional diagnostic testing, which may include a mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy. Mammograms and ultrasounds help doctors to see inside the breast, while a biopsy allows an actual tissue sample to be tested for cancer cells. There are different types of biopsy including stereotactic breast biopsy, which uses a mammography machine to pinpoint the area of the breast to be biopsied, or ultrasound guided biopsy, in which a radiologist uses ultrasound imaging to locate the specific area to be biopsied. Your doctor will help you decide the best type of biopsy based on your symptoms and medical history.

Your Breast Health

Every woman should be proactive about breast health. Monthly breast self-exams are recommended for women of all ages. Breast self-exams should include feeling within the breast and observing the outside of the breast to look for any changes. Annual mammograms are also recommended for most women beginning at age 40. If you’ve had normal mammograms in the past, it is important to continue to receive them each year so your radiologist can compare the images and check for subtle changes.