Hopefully Your Doc Isn't a Boob

Inflammatory Breast Cancer often misdiagnosed

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Turns out, suspicious lumps and bumps aren’t the only potential sign of breast cancer to look for during your next self-exam.

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) –the most aggressive and fatal form of invasive breast cancer – often presents itself with rapid breast enlargement and skin changes in the affected breast, including an “orange peel” appearance and color changes – from intense pink to red and purple throughout the entire breast.

"Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and aggressive form of invasive breast cancer accounting for 2.5 percent of all breast cancer cases," said Massimo Cristofanilli, M.D., of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. "A lack of awareness about IBC means this deadly cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis or generalized dermatitis, so treatment starts too late.”

To counter this lack of awareness, Cristofanilli and a team of researchers have issued a report detailing IBC’s clinical presentation, pathology, epidemiology, imaging and biology. The team of researchers estimate approximately 5,000 women will be diagnosed with IBC before the year is over. The American Cancer Society estimates that, in all, 192,370 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed this year.

“We hope this report will increase clinicians' familiarity with IBC to help improve outcomes for patients,” Cristofanilli said.

IBC is often treated as an infection since there is no lump present. The disease often doesn’t show up on mammograms, so it’s important to get a yearly clinical exam by your doctor.

According to a previous report, IBC occurs in African-American women more frequently and at a younger age than in white women, highlighting racial disparities among IBC patients.

So what are researchers doing to combat this deadly disease? The authors of the report write that early experiments suggest that drugs being developed may be effective in treating IBC.

If "may be effective" doesn't sit well with you, you might be wondering what can you do to lower your risk of developing IBC, or any type of breast cancer for that matter. Besides self- and clinical-exams in addition to regular mammograms past age 40 (or before then if the disease runs in your family), it’s super important to eat right and get plenty of exercise, which lowers estrogen levels. For example, a recent study suggests that more than two hours of vigorous exercise every week reduces the risk of developing breast cancer in postmenopausal African-American women by 64 percent.

Also, avoid excessive alcohol intake and soy products, which may increase estrogen levels. And be sure to take your folate, the B vitamin found in green leafy vegetables, beans, fortified cereals and some supplements.

The good news is there’s a more than 90 percent chance of survival associated with early breast cancer detection – good odds that could be made even better. Arming yourself with information about the disease and its deadliest variant, IBC, is a good place to start -- but knowing your body and taking good care of it is essential.  

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 20, 2010
Last Updated:
February 16, 2011