Breast cancer that looks like an infection of the bone

Paget’s disease of the nipple is a rare form of breast cancer in which cancer cells grow in the nipple or the areola (the area around the nipple). The nipple and areola often become scaly, red, itchy and irritated. Many people with Paget’s disease may also have either DCIS or invasive breast cancer somewhere else in the breast. The unusual changes in the nipple and areola are often the first signs that breast cancer is present.

If you have these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean you have inflammatory breast cancer, but you should see a physician. You may initially be treated with antibiotics to rule out a breast infection or allergy. But if symptoms persist, you should see a breast specialist.

Not all forms of breast cancer present with an obvious lump. Lumps are not usually physically apparent with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, which is a rare but aggressive form of breast cancer.

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Inflammatory Breast Cancer

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Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms may include:

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Ductal carcinoma in situ

The prognosis, or likely outcome, for a patient diagnosed with cancer is often viewed as the chance that the cancer will be treated successfully and that the patient will recover completely. Many factors can influence a cancer patient’s prognosis, including the type and location of the cancer, the stage of the disease, the patient’s age and overall general health, and the extent to which the patient’s disease responds to treatment.

HER2-positive breast cancer cells have too much of the protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) on the surface of the cancer cells compared with normal cells. These excess HER2 receptors promote the growth of the cancer cells. HER2-positive breast cancer may be either hormone receptor positive or negative. Around 20% of breast cancers are HER2 positive.

Breast cancer that looks like an infection of the bone

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Unlike many other types of breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer does not typically start with a distinct lump or tumor in the breast that can be felt or isolated. But when the lymph vessels of the breast (the small tubes that drain lymph fluid away from the breast tissue and carry it to the lymph nodes) become blocked by breast cancer cells, symptoms begin to appear.

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Non-invasive breast cancers

What is the prognosis of patients with inflammatory breast cancer?

About two-thirds of breast cancers are hormone receptor-positive, which means that female hormones (oestrogen and/or progesterone) cause them to grow and reproduce. Most people with hormone positive breast cancer will be offered hormone-blocking therapy such as tamoxifen, anastrozole or letrozole. These are oral (tablet) medications that are taken daily for five years or more following the completion of other breast cancer treatments (surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy).

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)

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Inflammatory breast cancer grows and spreads (metastasizes) quickly, often spreading to nearby lymph nodes, which are small, bean-shaped structures in the body that support the immune system. This can cause lymph nodes to become swollen and painful. IBC can also metastasize (spread) to organs such as the brain, bones, liver, and lungs if not diagnosed promptly.

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Phyllodes tumours of the breast

Breast Surgery & Breast Oncology > Blog > Breast Cancer > What Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer and Why Should You Be Aware Of the Symptoms?

While it can be more difficult to diagnose inflammatory breast cancer because there is not a lump to view on a mammogram or feel during an exam, it is typically diagnosed through a clinical exam and a biopsy. A skin punch biopsy is when a sample of the skin and tissue immediately underneath the skin is taken. A pathologist will then test the skin and tissue to determine if it is cancerous. Additional tests, including MRI or ultrasound, may also be recommended.

Inflammatory breast cancer is generally treated first with systemic chemotherapy to help shrink the tumor, then with surgery to remove the tumor, followed by radiation therapy. This approach to treatment is called a multimodal approach. Studies have found that women with inflammatory breast cancer who are treated with a multimodal approach have better responses to therapy and longer survival. Treatments used in a multimodal approach may include those described below.

Types of breast cancer

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Inflammatory breast cancer is rare, accounting for 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the United States. Most inflammatory breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas, which means they developed from cells that line the milk ducts of the breast and then spread beyond the ducts.

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Selected References

Additional features of inflammatory breast cancer include the following:

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. DCIS is the name for abnormal changes in cells in the milk ducts of the breast. It is non-invasive because it hasn’t spread into any surrounding breast tissue. For this reason, DCIS isn’t considered to be ‘true’ invasive cancer. DCIS isn’t life-threatening, but having DCIS can increase the risk of developing an invasive breast cancer later in life. Your doctor will talk to you about treatment followed by regular, long-term follow-up which may include more frequent clinical examinations and screening.

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