Inflammatory Breast Cancer Awareness Month Observed In North Dakota To Raise Awareness About An Aggressive And Unusual Form Of Breast Cancer

 Governor Jack Dalrymple has proclaimed October as Inflammatory Breast Cancer Awareness Month in North Dakota.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Among these, 1 percent to 5 percent will be diagnosed with a far more aggressive form – inflammatory breast cancer (IBC).

Because the symptoms of IBC are so different from other forms of breast cancer, accurate diagnosis and timely treatment essential to survival often are delayed. IBC does not present with a lump but with a red rash that often is mistaken for mastitis or other skin conditions. IBC usually grows in “nests” or “sheets,” rather than a tumor that causes a lump. Some women also experience thickening of the skin, pain and itching. As the cancer grows, it can result in dimpling of the skin, a condition called “peau d’orange.”

With the introduction of systemic chemotherapy, the five-year overall survival rate with a diagnosis of IBC has improved from 0 percent to 5 percent in the 1990s to a five-year survival rate of 40 percent and a 10-year survival rate of 35 percent today. With the advancements in targeted therapy, many women with IBC are now living longer with a better quality of life.

“Unfortunately, there is no early detection method for inflammatory breast cancer,” said Mary Ann Foss, director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control for the North Dakota Department of Health. “Because IBC usually cannot be detected by mammography, it’s very important that women recognize the signs and symptoms of the disease.”

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:

  • A breast that appears discolored (red, purple, pink or bruised).
  • A tender, firm and enlarged breast (sometimes overnight).
  • A warm feeling in the breast (or may feel hot/warm to the touch).
  • Persistent itching of the breast (not relieved with cream or salve).
  • Shooting or stabbing pain.
  • Ridged or dimpled skin texture, similar to an orange peel.
  • Thickened areas of breast tissue.
  • Enlarged lymph nodes under the arm, and/or above or below the collarbone.
  • Flattening or retraction of the nipple.
  • Swollen or crusted skin on the nipple.
  • Change in color of the skin around the nipple.


“If one or more of these symptoms continue for more than a week, talk to health-care provider immediately, and find someone who has experience treating this particular type of breast cancer,” Foss said. “It’s important that women become their own best advocate when it comes to ruling out inflammatory breast cancer.”

More information about inflammatory breast cancer can be found by visiting For more information about Inflammatory Breast Cancer Awareness Month, contact Barbara Steiner, North Dakota Department of Health, at 701.328.2389.