Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare type of breast cancer that develops rapidly. It causes redness, swelling and tenderness in the affected breast. These symptoms occur due to cancer cells blocking the lymphatic vessels in the skin covering the breast.

Inflammatory breast cancer is considered a locally advanced cancer meaning that it has spread from its point of origin to nearby tissue and lymph nodes.



Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:


  • Rapid change in the appearance of one breast
  • Thickness, heaviness or enlargement of one breast
  • Discoloration of the breast (red, pink or bruised appearance)
  • Unusual warmth of the affected breast
  • Tenderness and pain
  • Ridges on the skin of the affected breast
  • Flattening or turning inward of the nipple
  • Enlarged lymph nodes under the arm, above or below the collarbone



The exact cause of inflammatory breast cancer is unclear. However, experts believe is starts with an abnormal cell in one of the breast’s ducts. Mutations in the abnormal cell’s DNA cause it to grow and divide rapidly. The growing abnormal cells accumulate and infiltrate and clog the lymphatic vessels in the skin of the breast.


Risk factors

Risk factors for inflammatory breast cancer include:


  • Gender: Being a woman significantly increases the risk of inflammatory breast cancer. Rare cases have been diagnosed in men.
  • Race: Black women have a higher risk of inflammatory breast cancer.
  • Increasing age
  • Obesity