Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer usually develop quickly, often over a few weeks or months. There may be swelling, redness and warmth in the breast, although there may be no lump in the breast. The breast may appear bruised, reddish purple or even pink. The skin also may appear ridged or pitted, which is called peau d'orange, since it appears similar to the skin of an orange.
Patients with this type of cancer may experience heaviness, aching, burning, tenderness, an increase in breast size or a nipple that points inward. The lymph nodes under the arm, above the collar bone or in both locations, may also swell. Swollen lymph nodes, however, may also be symptoms of infection, injury or other conditions and not cancer.
Between one and five percent of breast cancers in the United States are of the inflammatory type. The condition affects African-Americans more frequently and at a younger age than Caucasians.
Inflammatory breast cancer can occur in men, but males usually contract it at a later age than women. There is some research showing a link between a family history of breast cancer and inflammatory breast cancer, but more study is required before this link is accepted as a risk factor.