Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Do You Know What IBC is?

Unless you live in a cave, you know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons can be found on everything from stamps to vacuum cleaners to bread bags. This is the time when women are reminded about the importance of breast exams and the signs of breast cancer.

But did you know there is another type of breast cancer that is not detected with a lump or through a mammogram?

It is called Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) and it affects about 6% of women but it accounts for 40% of breast cancer deaths.

IBC usually grows in nests or sheets, rather than as a confined, solid tumor and therefore can diffuse throughout the breast with no palpable mass. Some women who have inflammatory breast cancer may remain undiagnosed for long periods, even while seeing their doctor to learn the cause of her symptoms.

The symptoms are similar to mastitis, a breast infection, and some doctors, not recognizing IBC, will prescribe antibiotics. If a response to antibiotics is not apparent after a week, a biopsy should be performed or a referral to a breast specialist is warranted. But because most physicians have not seen an actual case of IBC, it is up to you to push for a biopsy if you suspect IBC.

Here are some of the symptoms of IBC:

  • Swelling, usually sudden, sometimes a cup size in a few days

  • Itching

  • Pink, red, or dark colored area (called erythema) sometimes with texture similar to the skin of an orange (called peau d'orange)

  • Ridges and thickened areas of the skin

  • What appears to be a bruise that does not go away

  • Nipple retraction

  • Nipple discharge, may or may not be bloody

  • Breast is warm to the touch

  • Breast pain (from a constant ache to stabbing pains)

  • Change in color and texture of the areola
Surprisingly, many cancer information hotlines and web sites don't even have information about IBC. However, you can get some great information here and here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information on a subject the public is needing to hear. We have a nurse friend, working for an OB who developed IBC. The docs. treated her for mastitis which is the usual course. That not helping, she was finally referred to a specialist who did the biopsy and found the cancer. It is a VERY aggressive cancer and the more people who know about it, the quicker it can be considered as a diagnosis for this rare form of breast cancer.