Inflammatory Breast Cancer | Symptoms, Stages, Diagnosis, Treatment & survival rates

Inflammatory breast cancer vs mastitis

Inflammation is a complicated process that the body undertakes in order to fight off infection and remove any dead cells or microscopic debris. It involves widening of blood vessels or “Vasodilation”, the transport of various immune cells to the site of the inflammatory response, the use of biological markers and chemical mediators to call in more reinforcements, and the destruction of the targeted cells or pathogens.

The inflammatory response is intended to be a useful weapon for the body, but things can go wrong quickly if the inflammatory cells are not actually needed or if the inflammation overstays its welcome. In these cases, inflammatory is harmful and damaging to the body and should be stopped as soon as possible.

One example of what can go wrong with inflammation is a condition known as mastitis. It refers to an inflammation of the breast tissue. Bacteria can enter the breast through a cracked nipple, causing an inflammatory response in the breast. Breast inflammation can also occur if the milk ducts of the mammary gland become obstructed for any reason and the milk becomes trapped inside. Thus, mastitis commonly appears in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, where its incidence is highest in the first 6 to 12 weeks after giving birth. It is also possible for non-lactating women to develop mastitis, albeit at a lower rate.

In general, there are some cardinal signs that always appear when inflammation is present. These are pain, swelling, redness, heat, and loss of function. The problem we are faced with here is that while, naturally, mastitis exhibits these criteria since it is a type of inflammation, inflammatory breast cancer also produces similar signs and symptoms. The first is a benign disease that can go away on its own, while the second is a grave condition that has a high mortality rate and is rather difficult to treat. So, how do we differentiate between mastitis and inflammatory breast cancer?

For starters, mastitis tends to occur more commonly in younger women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, while inflammatory breast cancer is more likely to afflict older females who have entered the period of menopause.

Another important differentiator is that when a patient with what seems to be an inflammation of the breast is given antibiotics for a minimum of one week, the signs and symptoms will improve if the disease is mastitis, while a case of inflammatory breast cancer would continue to experience the disease’s manifestations.