(Thanks to my patient J.R. for pointing me to this story.)

A little over a month ago a Seattle TV station broadcast a news story about inflammatory breast cancer. You can read the story or watch the video on the station’s website. Since then, interested viewers have emailed the story to friends and acquaintances and the video has been viewed over ten million times. This has drawn welcomed attention to inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive form of breast cancer.

The Mayo Clinic website has a very comprehensive review of inflammatory breast cancer. What makes inflammatory breast cancer different than other breast cancer, and frequently leads to late diagnosis, is the absence of a lump. Inflammatory breast cancer is frequently misperceived as an irritation or infection of the skin. According to the Mayo Clinic overview, signs and symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:

  • A breast that appears red, purple, pink or bruised
  • A tender, firm and enlarged breast
  • A warm feeling in the breast
  • Itching of the breast
  • Pain
  • Ridged or dimpled skin texture, similar to an orange peel
  • Thickened areas of skin
  • Enlarged lymph nodes under the arm, above the collarbone or below the collarbone
  • Flattening or retraction of the nipple
  • Swollen or crusted skin on the nipple
  • Change in color of the skin around the nipple (areola)

Early correct diagnosis can make a big difference in inflammatory breast cancer, so keep this in mind when you do your monthly breast self-exams and pass it along to someone you care about.