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Early Warning Signs of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

author image Rae Uddin
Rae Uddin has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2004. She specializes in scientific journalism and medical and technical writing. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Uddin earned her Master of Science in integrated biomedical sciences with an emphasis in molecular and cellular biochemistry from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
Medically Reviewed by
Kenneth R. Hirsch
Early Warning Signs of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer requires urgent medical care. Photo Credit physicians desk image by Keith Frith from Fotolia.com


Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer that can quickly spread to other parts of the body. In the United States, this type of cancer accounts for approximately 1 to 5 percent of all cases of breast cancer, according to health experts at the National Cancer Institute. Women or men who develop any of the early warning signs of inflammatory breast cancer should seek medical care immediately to ensure prompt treatment and care.

Breast Discoloration or Warmth

Initially, your breast tissue can appear unusually discolored. It may develop a red, pink or purple appearance or can look bruised. You may notice that the discolored breast tissue feels warm to the touch. You may also experience tenderness, pain or itching of the affected breast. These breast changes typically affect only one breast and can advance quickly over the span of several days or weeks. If you develop these early warning signs of inflammatory breast cancer, consult a doctor as soon as possible.

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Breast Swelling

Fluid can accumulate within the breast as an early warning sign of inflammatory breast cancer. As a result, you may notice that the affected breast appears unusually swollen, enlarged or heavy. This early sign of inflammatory breast cancer can also be accompanied by breast skin discoloration or breast tissue tenderness.

Breast Dimpling

Breast tissue affected by inflammatory breast cancer can appear unusually dimpled or thick. The breast skin can resemble the skin of an orange, and may be discolored, painful or itchy. Unlike people with more traditional forms of breast cancer, people with inflammatory breast cancer do not develop unusual lumps within the affected breast. Additionally, you may develop hives or welts across the breast tissue.

Nipple Changes

Inflammatory breast cancer can cause nipple changes as an early warning sign of disease. You may notice that your nipple appears unusually retracted, flat or inverted. Nipple changes may accompany breast pain or discomfort in certain patients. These changes are not normal and should be discussed with a medical professional as soon as possible.

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