A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

3 signs of inflammatory breast cancer: See a doctor soon

Pink background with a breast cancer ribbon - Signs of inflammatory breast cancer

An advanced form of breast cancer can result in a noticeable change in the skin on your breast.

Inflammatory breast cancer is an advanced form of breast cancer where there is a noticeable change in the skin on your breast.

“If a patient presents with advanced stage, or inflammatory breast cancer, we try to get these patients into treatment relatively quickly,” said Dr. Patcharin Tanawattanacharoen, medical oncologist/hematologist with Marshfield Clinic Health System.

Signs you may have this advanced form of breast cancer include:

  • Skin discoloration different from your normal breast
  • Breast inflammation
  • Thick, bumpy or red skin on the breasts

If you see any of these symptoms, Tanawattanacharoen recommends you seek help right away.

Patients can still be treated for inflammatory breast cancer, but the long-term survival rate is lower than if the breast cancer were to have been caught at an earlier stage.

How to prevent inflammatory breast cancer

All breast cancer starts as a small tumor. Some eventually grow and invade the skin to cause this advanced stage. A mammogram can help detect the cancer when it is small.

Most breast cancer grows slowly, but some grow very fast. Sometimes there is not much time before there is a change on the skin.

“A person may not know that they have that cancer for a number of years before it reaches the inflammatory stage, but in some patients it can be something that happens quicker,” Tanawattanacharoen said. “The majority of inflammatory breast cancers are an aggressive breast cancer where it grows fast.”

You should participate in screening so this does not happen to you. Every woman should get an annual mammogram starting at age 40. Tanawattanacharoen also recommends women perform breast self-exams once a month.

Some women may be at an increased risk for breast cancer and certain preventive options are available for these women. Talk to your doctor about your risks, if you should consider genetic testing and if you should participate in these preventive options.

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