Use of Antibiotics: An Infection
Symptoms of Inflammatory
Breast Cancer, IBC
One or more of the
following are Typical Symptoms of IBC.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO HAVE A LUMP TO HAVE BREAST CANCER*
Rapid, unusual increase in breast size
Redness, rash, blotchiness on breast
Persistent itching of breast or nipple
Lump or thickening of breast tissue
Stabbing pain and/or soreness of breast
Swelling of lymph nodes under the arm or above the collarbone
Dimpling or ridging of the breast
Flattening or retracting of nipple
If you suddenly develop a lump or mass, have it
checked immediately. We have one reported case where a 9x8x5cm lump developed in only three
Use caution when
relying on the interpretations and reports of the mammogram or ultrasound!
Inflammatory breast cancer usually grows in nests or sheets, rather than as a
confined solid tumor. IBC may not be detected using either mammography or
ultrasonography. Increased breast density compared to prior
mammograms should be considered suspicious. Remember:
You don't have to have a lump to have breast cancer.
Please see the
Slide Presentation, and especially slides 12 and 13: a mass was found in
only 15% of mammograms of IBC patients in a peer-reviewed retrospective review
of mammograms and IBC.
Pictures of some symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer, effects
of steroids, and how skin metastases may appear can be viewed at
National Cancer Institute, NCI, describes the symptoms of inflammatory breast
A lump or thickening in
or near the breast or in the underarm area
A change in the size or
shape of the breast
Nipple discharge or
tenderness, or the nipple pulled back (inversion) into the breast
Ridges or pitting of the
breast (the skin looks like the skin of an orange)
A change in the way the
skin of the breast, areola, or nipple looks or feels (for example, warm,
swollen, red, or scaly)
In the NCI's Glossary:
Inflammatory breast cancer: A type of breast cancer in
which the breast looks red and swollen, and feels warm. The skin of the
breast may also show the pitted appearance called peau d'orange (like the skin
of an orange). The redness and warmth occur because the cancer cells block
the lymph vessels in the skin.
If you have any of the
symptoms of IBC and have not been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer ...
inflammatory breast cancer is often mistaken for an infection and antibiotics
are prescribed. Ask for a mammogram and then request a copy of the radiologist's
report. If there is any skin discoloration, ask for a skin biopsy and request a
copy of the pathologist's report. If the mammogram and the skin biopsy are each
negative, ask for an ultrasound.
If symptoms persist
without a diagnosis of their cause, seek a second opinion or
a third opinion, continue
until a doctor has determined the cause of your symptoms.
Use of Antibiotics:
An Infection or IBC?
Some symptoms of IBC are often thought to be
those of mastitis, an infection, resulting in treatment with antibiotics, and
sometimes, but not always, the antibiotic treatment changes the appearance of
clinical symptoms. The reason for an apparent response to antibiotics when
IBC is present is not known and may delay the diagnosis of IBC.
eventually diagnosed with IBC has written the following about her own
experience with antibiotics.
A partial response to antibiotics is "what delayed the
diagnosis of my IBC. First my GP thought my breast was hard and sore
because of my period so wanted me to wait one month. When I went back, he
put me on antibiotics because my breast was very red, hot to the touch, rock
hard and painful. After 3 weeks of the antibiotics, my breast was no
longer hot to the touch and not as painful. He kept me on antibiotics for
2 months, constantly trying different ones until the diagnostic radiologist
requested a biopsy after my yearly mammogram. The surgeon almost didn't do
the biopsy because he couldn't find a lump to biopsy but the diagnostic
radiologist insisted. The surgeon finally just made a small incision and
did several punch biopsies. I don't know how much longer it would have
been if the diagnostic radiologist had not been alert and made that
request or if it had been longer before I was due for my yearly mammogram.
We all learned something that day."
Things Doctors have told IBC Patients about their IBC Symptoms
The doctor said that if it was
breast cancer he would be able to find a lump and a discharge, not
just inflammation and swollen nodes; the doctor explained that the calcifications
in the breast tissue were due to caffeine (which she didn't drink.)
The doctor said she had spider bites
when she developed skin metastasis following treatment for
regular breast cancer.
After her mammogram, the radiologist
told her to stop wearing under wire bras.
She was told to change bras and
detergent to get rid of the rash
At age 20, she was told the lump she
felt was "rib cartilage" and not to worry as she
was too young to have breast cancer. She wasn't properly
diagnosed until 2 years and 3 exams later. She died of IBC at age 25.
She was told she had regular breast
cancer instead of IBC. Her doctor said he had seen plenty
of IBC cases and she didn't have it.
She had inflammation with intense
itching on one breast which appeared and disappeared 4
times. The first time it was diagnosed as spider bites, the second time as an allergic reaction to food or detergent, and irritation from
cyst fluid from fibrocystic breast the 3rd time. Note: spider
bites or insect bites do not cause inflammatory breast cancer. Seek
medical attention if a small red spot having the appearance of an insect bite
does not soon resolve.
Her IBC was diagnosed
first as shingles.
Finally, although this woman had not been diagnosed with IBC when she wrote this, it doesn't
change the fact that her doctor's explanation of
how IBC starts is erroneous. She was told she didn't need a biopsy
because IBC "starts with a lump which then disperses
and she couldn't have IBC because the lump would have
shown up on one of her previous mammograms."
If you have been diagnosed with
inflammatory breast cancer and would like to share something strange that you were
told about your symptoms by a doctor prior to your diagnosis, please
write to us. Your message will be treated confidentially.
Chicago reports November 11, 2004
Law librarian Marilyn Coon noticed that her right breast became itchy, red
saw both a gynecologist and primary care physician.
kind of treated it like it was an inflammation or a bruise."
Read the story
Cancer Can Go Undetected.
Seattle interviewed Nancy Key for
The Silent Killer, September 1, 2004