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Ethnic factors and inflammatory breast cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a relatively unheard of aggressive and fatal cancer. IBC, even though it only accounts for 2%-6% of all breast cancer, the survival rate for 5-years is only 40%. Patients are often misdiagnosed with such illnesses, as breast infection because of the physical symptoms of IBC, which delayed treatment can affects a person's survival rate. People are often misdiagnosed because not many people, including health care professionals, are not aware of this rare form of cancer. Therefore, it is important for people to be aware of the symptoms of IBC. IBC cannot be diagnosed until Stage III, and is generally missed by mammograms. This type of breast cancer has physical presentations:

  • There is typically no lump with Inflammatory Breast Cancer.
  • Breast feels warm to the touch, any may look infected (red bump)
  • A dimpling of the breast skin that looks like an orange peel (peau d’orange)
  • Thickening of the skin, flattened or discolored nipples, or swelling in underarm or one side of neck
  • Shooting or itching pain

Not much is known about IBC. Research and epidemiology in this area is fairly new. Researchers do not even know if there is a genetic marker for this type of cancer. However, research has shown that certain risk factors, such as ethnicity, could be a factor in IBC.

According to Levine and Veneroso IBC can occur at a younger age than non-inflammatory breast cancer and there is a higher rate and poorer outcome in Black women compared to White women. Blacks had at least 50% incidence of IBC compared to Whites and have less of a chance of survival. When it comes to age of onset of IBC, Hispanic women had the youngest age at 50.2 years compared to 55.2 for Black women and 58.1 for White women. Furthermore, obesity could also be a risk factor for premenopausal IBC, but is not a risk factor for premenopausal non-inflammatory breast cancer.

Even though much is not known about IBC, research is being done at cancer centers, such as MD Anderson, to fight and cure this virulent cancer, so there is always hope. Additionally, there are support/educational networks, such as the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Network. For additionally information, you can contact Terry Arnold at or @talkibc on Twitter.

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