HOUSTON (KIAH) – October 4 was National Inflammatory Breast Cancer Day. Inflammatory breast cancer, or IBC, is one of the most rare and deadly breast cancers in the world. It accounts for only 1% to 5% of all breast cancers.

To raise awareness, Houston native Terry Arnold, a survivor and founder of the IBC Network Foundation, stopped by the CW39 Houston studios to share her story of misdiagnosis to remission.

The American Cancer Society explained IBC looks different than other breast cancers, causing symptoms like swelling and redness, which is caused by cancer cells blocking lymph vessels in the skin causing the breast to look “inflamed.”

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) differs from other types of breast cancer in many ways:

  • IBC doesn’t look like a typical breast cancer. It often does not cause a breast lump, and it might not show up on a mammogram. This makes it harder to diagnose.
  • IBC tends to occur in younger women (younger than 40 years of age).
  • Black women appear to develop IBC more often than White women.
  • IBC is more common among women who are overweight or obese.
  • IBC tends to be more aggressive—it grows and spreads much more quickly—than more common types of breast cancer.
  • IBC is always at least at a locally advanced stage when it’s first diagnosed because the breast cancer cells have grown into the skin. (This means it is at least stage III.)
  • In about 1 of 3 cases, IBC has already spread (metastasized) to distant parts of the body when it is diagnosed. This makes it harder to treat successfully.
  • Women with IBC tend to have a worse prognosis (outcome) than women with other common types of breast cancer.

Signs and symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) can cause a number of signs and symptoms, most of which develop quickly (within 3 to 6 months), including:

  • Swelling (edema) of the skin of the breast
  • Redness involving more than one-third of the breast
  • Pitting or thickening of the skin of the breast so that it may look and feel like an orange peel
  • A retracted or inverted nipple
  • One breast looking larger than the other because of swelling
  • One breast feeling warmer and heavier than the other
  • A breast that may be tender, painful, or itchy
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes under the arms or near the collarbone