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Inflammatory Breast Cancer (rapidly progressing breast cancer: RPBC)
by Alexandra Andrews, Inflammatory Breast Cancer Survivor and David Bradley

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (rapidly progressing breast cancer: RPBC)
is a relatively rare form of breast cancer (about 1-4%), which has the worst prognosis of all breast cancers. IBC/RPBC is fast-growing and blocks the lymph vessels in the breast and skin. Swollen lymph nodes may appear under the arm or above the collarbone Age, Pregnancy or Sex is no barrier. The very young have been diagnosed with IBC/RPBC. Men can have IBC/RPBC. Pregnant or Lactating Women have developed IBC/RPBC.

For your peace of mind, insist on a complete workup to rule out the more common benign problems. But very frequently, IBC/RPBC is not diagnosed immediately because it is rare. Many doctors and health professionals do not know about IBC/RPBC. A good suggestion is to be seen at your nearest teaching hospital.

Symptoms may include any of the following:
A warm swollen red breast, giving the appearance of an infection or inflammation.
The breast may appear dimpled and bumpy, like an orange (peau d'orange).
The breast does not change through the menstrual cycle or respond to antibiotics
Many times IBC/RPBC is mistaken for Mastitis.
Women have developed IBC/RPBC while nursing.
Some have thought the redness was because of their implants.
Another red flag is when a course of antibiotics does not produce significant results.
The sudden appearance of a large lump in the breast. Women/Men have reported going to bed with nothing and waking up with a 9cm lump. This sudden onset can be ascribed to a phenomenon similar to an ice cube or ice berg. One only sees the very top of the ice and not its true size.
Some have spoken of seeing something like a small flea bite which grew larger and larger. Don't forget: breast tumors grow on a bell curve.
Itching with or without visible skin changes.
The nipple can become flattened or inverted. Occasionally there may be discharge.
There may pain in the breast. Do not be fooled by this widespread myth, if there's pain, there can't be cancer.
Many times IBC/RPBC will not show upon a mammogram.

What is most important is that you start treatment right away!

Do not be discouraged by old information. Many in the medical profession remember when all they could say, "Go home and get your affairs in order."

Much of the material available in print was written before the introduction of multi-modality treatments. Now there are new chemotherapies, hormonals, radiation plans and other agents.

Today many of us are alive and thriving. The IBC list to brings hope and support at

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First appeared May 02, 2001; updated September 28, 2008