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Inflammatory Breast Cancer Doesn’t Have A Lump

By Melissa Summers

pinkribbon.jpgMy friend had her mammogram and nothing looked troubling, her technician rushed her results to the radiologist and before she got home 20 minutes later there was a call letting her know that the lump she was feeling was not a tumor. We all breathed a giant sigh of relief.
Then I read at Fenicle. Emily’s cousin was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, a rare but aggressive cancer which does not have a lump. This form of cancer spreads in sheets of cancerous cells and spreads rapidly.
Emily was sharing the story of WhyMommy, a mother of two young boys battling Inflammatory Breast Cancer. She wrote a fabulous post about her story and I’d like you to read it here.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

I guess I’ve always known any change in your breasts can indicate a problem, however I didn’t really know cancer could present itself in this way.
So my friend is in a better frame of mind now that the lump has been ruled as nothing. However I did share this information with her because she found the apparent lump because of some redness and swelling of her breast. She’s seeing a specialist next week to rule out any other issues.
Sometimes it’s uncanny how information comes into your frame of reference at exactly the right time. It’s unlikely my friend has Inflammatory Breast Cancer, but since it’s so rare many doctors don’t know to look for it. At least now she can make sure they rule it out in her case. I can’t quit you Internet.
It’s also an excellent reminder of why we visually examine our breasts each month as part of a self check. You’re looking for, “….redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange).
Pretty much if your breasts act funny, get to the doctor, make sure they are familiar with Inflammatory Breast Cancer and rule it out as soon as possible. Early detection is so important with this aggressive and deadly form of breast cancer.

Published October 4, 2007. Last updated July 16, 2018.
Melissa Summers
About the Author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.


Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.

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  • ML

    October 4, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    Thank you. Really.


    October 4, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    THANKS for posting about IBC.
    It is so rare & hopefully the women who read this will never experience it, but for the off chance they have symptoms (or a friend or family member) they’ll know!! Probably before their doctor!
    I greatly appreciate it Melissa.

  • joanne

    October 4, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    I’m glad you wrote about this. My aunt died recently from IBC. My aunt had noticed something wrong with her breast, but never did anything or saw a doctor. This had gone oon for more than 6 months. Finally at a family holiday, I spoke to my aunt and cousins about finding a benign lump in my breast and the resulting removal. 3 months later she finally went to the doctor. She had her breast and lymph nodes removed. She went through several chemo and radiation treatments. She was clear for almost 3 years, then it began again. It spread to her bones and liver. She passed away this last April. Her oldest daughter just graduated high school and has started college. 3 daughters, none will have their mother at their big moments. High school graduation, college, marriage. Thank you for writing about this, for sharing your friend’s predicament. I wish my aunt did something sooner for herself. I’m glad I told my aunt about my lump which gave her the courage to see her doctor. I wish I had my aunt still

  • Whymommy

    October 5, 2007 at 8:40 am

    Thanks, Melissa! This is such a sneaky, but deadly disease. Prayers for your friend that she doesn’t have it … but hurrah for her going to get it checked out!

  • Susan McLaughlin

    October 11, 2007 at 12:12 am

    ANY lump should be checked by a surgeon, not just by mammo- my sister didn’t get that advice, was told it was not cancer and it was. Yes, she won a lawsuit against the doctor who did not give the proper advice, but she died last November, at 44.

  • Em

    October 18, 2007 at 4:42 am

    I think another important thing is not to think that you’re too young for breast cancer. Sure, it’s statistically less likely to be BC when you’re younger – but that doesn’t make it an impossibility. I was diagnosed at age 27. Cancer is no respecter of age….
    Don’t let your doctor fob you off or delay getting things checked out. Waiting another month may seem no big deal, but breast cancers in younger women can be more aggressive (not always, but can). Sometimes you have to be the squeaky wheel. And in the end it’s better to risk putting your doctor on the spot to look after yourself.

  • Beth

    February 21, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    I came across this blog because I’m researching IBC. I think I may have it. My doctor instists that it’s just fibrocystic breast disease, which I’ve lived with for years and never have my breast reacted this way. My question is for someone out there who has had IBC. I don’t have all the symptoms on the list. I have one swollen breast with some soreness and it’s warm (not hot) to the touch (it’s not red at all). My nipple is not inverted but it has taken on a cone shape that it didn’t have before. Am I worring myself over nothing or could this be the very, very beginning of IBC and I just don’t have the bad physical symptoms yet? I told my doctor’s office my concerns and they said they could set up an appointment for a mammogram but that my insurance probably would not pay for it since I’m not 40 yet. I can tell that it’s going to be a battle already. I told them that a mammogram would not detect IBC and asked for a biopsy. She said that could not do a biopsy unless the mammogram showed a reason to do a biopsy. Can anyone help? How am I supposed to tell the Dr.s how to do their job. How can I make them listen and do the tests without me having to pay for them out of my own pocket?
    Is there any help out there?

  • Cindy

    April 21, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    I don’t have any direct relation to this illness but I would strongly recommend you go to a hopsital who specializes in this type of illness. Check into Baylor Hospital, Dallas, Texas. Don’t walk, run.

  • Jessica

    May 29, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    wow, i came across the post looking up symptoms of IBC because my grandma just passed from it. and now i am experancing somethings that i never had before-
    I am a 29 year old female. About a month ago, my left breast started to itch, at first it was just slightly. Then about a week after the itching started i noticed a red spot under the skin, (not a perfect circle) the spot is on the oppsite side of the breast from where the itching is accruing. i was visiting my mother in denver and because my grandma just died of IBC i made an appointment to see a doctor. they suggested that i have a mamo but didnt seem to concerned with it. i ended up coming back home before i could get the mamo done. now its been about a month sense the first symptom. my left breast itches so bad i could cry. i also noticed another little red spot coming up like the first one but smaller on the opposite side of the breast from the first one. and my nipple seems to be going flat. it doesnt respond to stimulation unless lying flat on my back. Today as i was doing a breast exam i noticed a small hard spot deep in the breast close to the first red mark. i dont know if i am just thinking i feel one because i am scared for if i really do have one. Anyway. i have a dr appt on the 13th of June but i live in a city that is well known for lousy medical care. Has anyone been here??? Or know someone who has?? Any suggestions or help in what might be going on would be GREAT!!

  • debra

    June 24, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    I live on long island and am being treated for possible breast infection. I have read that that is usually when you breast feed. I do not. I have every possible symptom except reverted nipple. I am looking for a surgeon who has experience with ibc so that I can have the proper testing. Any assistance?

  • Dawn

    January 2, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Hi, my name is Dawn and I’m 38 years old. I first noticed my left breast itching about 5 months ago or so. At first it was just once and a while like when I would take my bra off and night or when I would get up in the morning. Now… it itches all the time, driving my crazy! At first it was only when my bra was off but now it’s all the time, even in church and it’s hard to resist the urge to scratch in public. It’s so embarrasing. Do you think that It could be IBC?