Inflammatory Breast Disease

November 12, 2012

Inflammatory Breast Disease

Inflammatory breast disease is quite rare, is not easy to detect and this disease is more dangerous because of all of this.

Breast cancer will normally start as one single tumour that is usually a painless and hard lump appearing in the underarm or breast area. This disease does not have what we would consider the typical symptoms of breast cancer.

Most cancers of the breast appear to start in the duct system and normally grow as a mass whereas inflammatory breast cancer happens when cancer cells have blocked the lymph glands in the breast. Inflammatory breast cancer is more difficult to treat as once it is detected the cancer has become advanced.

The reason why inflammatory is used in describing this condition is because the breast may become warm, red and swollen and can sometimes be mistaken for an infection in the breast. Younger women appear to be more susceptible to this disease as well as African-American women. In the USA, inflammatory breast disease accounts for approximately 1% to 5% of reported cases of breast cancer.

This disease appears in the lymph glands of the breast and spreads by travelling through the multiple lymph channels that are in the skin. And it is this process that causes the breast to appear red in colour, dimpled and enlarged.

In comparison to other types of cancer of the breasts this disease is much more aggressive and symptoms appear within weeks or even months. And as stated early by the time of diagnosis this cancer will normally have made significant advances within the breast and may already have spread to the other organs in the body.

Patients have reported suffering from the following symptoms with inflammatory breast disease: the breasts are warm to touch and painful. You may notice swelling of the breast but no lumps and the appearance of the nipple may change. Other patients report that the skin in the breast area appears slightly dimpled, very similar to the appearance of an orange.

Because of the difficulty in detecting inflammatory breast cancer and because the disease spreads through the whole breast area it can be difficult to view on a mammogram. The radiographer who is carrying out the mammogram will be unable to see a distinctive mass and because of this it can lead to a misdiagnosis of an infection in the breast area. And all of this leads to a delay in receiving the correct treatment.

A biopsy will be carried out to confirm the presence of inflammatory breast disease. After the diagnosis has been made there are methods of treatment that will be considered. These include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and other hormonal therapies. Because inflammatory breast disease is extremely aggressive the five year survival rate is between 25% and 50%.

Early diagnosis of inflammatory breast disease is crucial in improving survival rates for patients of this disease. Although the mammograms that are used to detect other forms of breast cancer do not at present detect this disease easily it is still really important to attend your mammogram screening. The use of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be of benefit in reaching a diagnosis of this disease.

Women who are 40 and older should always attend their yearly screening. Depending on your family’s medical history you may be recommended to attend at a younger age.

Should you notice any changes to your breasts it is very important to contact your doctor. Whether there is a change in the colour of the breast or the texture of the skin it is very important to make an appointment with your doctor. It may be that once you see your doctor you are reassured and you have nothing to worry about but as we know an early diagnosis of inflammatory breast disease and other forms of cancer can be crucial.


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