Breast Cancer - Inflammatory: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2014

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Women with inflammatory breast cancer may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, women with inflammatory breast cancer do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer.

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer may appear quickly and within a short time of each other.

  • A red, swollen, or warm breast. This symptom is caused when the cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. Because inflammatory breast cancer cells are located within the lymphatic system of the breast, it often quickly spreads throughout the body.
  • Skin or nipple changes, including ridges, puckering, or roughness on the skin. This roughness has been compared with the skin of an orange and may be called peau d’orange.
  • A lump in the breast, although often there is not distinct lump
  • Pain in the breast or nipple
  • Nipple discharge

If you are concerned about one or more of the symptoms or signs on this list, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section helps explain what tests and scans may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu on the side of your screen to select Diagnosis, or you can select another section, to continue reading this guide.