More than 260,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Many will be self-diagnosed, others will be diagnosed through the use of a mammogram, and a good number of women will discover breast cancer in the form of a lump.

However, not all cancers are detected this easily. One type of breast cancer is inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), which is an advanced and accelerated form of breast cancer that usually does not show up on routine screening exams such as mammograms or ultrasounds.

“The signs, symptoms, and treatment for IBC are different from other forms of cancer,” says Jeremy Z. Williams, an aesthetic and reconstructive surgeon at Park Meadows Cosmetic Surgery, Lone Tree, Colorado. “It’s important to know all of the warning signs.”

Williams says the warning signs or symptoms of IBC are:

• swelling

• itching

* a pink or dark colored area with an unusual texture (much like the skin of an orange)

* ridges and thickened areas of the breast skin

* a bruise that doesn’t go away

* nipple retraction

* nipple discharge

* breast is warm to touch

* breast pain

“IBC usually grows in nests or sheets, rather than as a confined tumor, or lump,” says Williams. “This makes it that much harder to detect. “Any time you notice changes in mammogram results from year to year, or if you develop any of these symptoms, you should be checked out by a doctor.”

IBC requires immediate aggressive treatment with chemotherapy prior to surgery. It is often misdiagnosed as mastitis, a breast infection, and is often treated with antibiotics before the true cause is found. If a response to antibiotics is not apparent after a week, a biopsy should be performed.

IBC is more common in certain ethnic populations. African American women have a higher incidence (10%) compared to white women (6%).

Williams notes that becoming aware of the symptoms will help women detect cancer as early as possible, and offer them a variety of options when it comes to cures, reconstruction, and living a long, happy life.