Inflammatory breast cancer - Breast cancer advice

Infammatory Cancer

Awareness about the existence of inflammatory breast cancer is thankfully on the increase but there are still far too many members of the medical profession missing the signs of this rare but extremely aggressive disease.

Breast cancer always starts with a lump, right? Wrong! This is a misconception which is common among many doctors who have frequently misdiagnosed inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) as an infection and treated it with antibiotics. And if there’s such widespread ignorance among doctors about this uncommon type of breast cancer then it’s hardly surprisingly that the general public knows so little about it.

Because the disease is so aggressive, spreading quickly to other parts of the body, an early diagnosis and treatment are vital to a patient’s chances of survival.

Symptoms include redness, swelling, itching and pain in the breast. Nipple retraction and discharge and an orange peel dimpling or thickening of the skin are other warning signs. The difficulty in many cases is that these symptoms can also indicate far less serious problems such as mastitis – an infection treatable with antibiotics. Some doctors have been known to dismiss the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer as a food allergy or even spider bites! One radiologist suggested a patient’s breast discomfort was caused by ill-fitting under-wired bras.

This problem of widespread ignorance about the disease is compounded by the fact that it can’t always be detected in routine tests such a mammograms and ultrasound scans. So a biopsy or a consultation with a specialist are needed to establish a case of IBC.

Rigorous treatment needs to be started promptly after diagnosis and usually involves a course of chemotherapy followed by mastectomy and possibly radiation and further chemo.

The good news is that survival rates have improved considerably in recent years thanks to research and the introduction of better treatment regimes.
If you’ve been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer there’s an excellent on-line support group specifically for people living with the disease. You can find it here: The group was established by Pete Bevin as a tribute to his wife Menya who died of the disease in 2001.

And for a more in-depth knowledge of the subject you might want to read Carole O’Toole’s Healing Outside the Margins which recounts her battle with the disease. Carole was a scientific researcher when she was diagnosed with IBC so she made it her business to find out everything she could about it. The book, which includes the complementary therapies Carole used as weapons in her fight with IBC, is available at:


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