Inflammatory Breast Cancer: the “Silent Killer”

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) is a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer in need of increased awareness. IBC accounts for only 1-5% of all breast cancers, and it differs from other types of breast cancer in symptoms, outlook, and treatment. It is termed the “silent killer” because it tends to grow and spread quickly, often without a lump. Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms are sometimes confused with breast infection, a more common cause of breast swelling and redness. Breast infection will respond to antibiotic treatment, however, if the redness does not improve, you should seek additional medical attention. Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms occur when cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin and can worsen within days, or as quickly as within a few hours. Symptoms include:Inflammatory Breast Cancer - BBN

  • Breast swelling, heaviness, or visual enlargement of one breast
  • Tenderness, pain or aching
  • Purple, red, or pink color or bruised appearance of the skin
  • Dimpling or thickening of the skin (similar to an orange-peel)
  • Unusual warmth of the affected breast
  • Flattening or inversion of the nipple
  • Rapid change in the appearance of one breast, over a few weeks
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the armpit, above the collarbone, or below the collarbone

Seek medical attention right away if you notice any these signs and symptoms on your breasts.

It is also important to note that IBC differs from other forms of breast cancer in risk factors and age of diagnosis, among other things including:

  • Often does not cause a breast lump and may not be detected on a mammogram
  • IBC is more common in African American women
  • People who are obese or overweight are at higher risk
  • Tends to occur in younger women (even women younger than 40 years of age)
  • In about 1 out of every 3 cases, IBC has already metastasized to distant parts of the body upon diagnosis

IBC, like other forms of breast cancer, can also affect men. Treatments for inflammatory breast cancer include chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Contact your doctor if you are concerned about any of the mentioned symptoms and share this information with family and friends to promote awareness of IBC. It could save a life.


Inflammatory Breast Cancer. (2020, January 21). Retrieved from

Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Details, Diagnosis, and Signs. (2019, September 19). Retrieved from

Jones, P., & MD Anderson Cancer Center. (2009, October 12). Identifying the silent killer: Inflammatory breast cancer. Retrieved from

Posted in General.