I have red blotches/red swollen patches that come and go on my breasts. They don’t itch, hurt or burn – they simply look rough. I've used skin creams that eventually make the splotches go away after a few days, but they always return. My PCP, a breast surgeon, and dermatologist have all ruled out inflammatory breast cancer, but I can’t help but continue to worry when the red spots return. Should I demand more testing?
I think your doctors are right that this is not inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) for several reasons:
It's been on both your right and left breast. IBC usually presents in just one breast.
It goes away with topical creams. The redness associated with IBC usually doesn't go away.
You don't seem to have swelling, which is one of the main symptoms of IBC, because in IBC cancer cells clog the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast causing swelling, which is often quite dramatic.
The problem has been "come and go" for months without getting worse. IBC symptoms usually escalate rapidly, getting much worse in a matter of days or weeks.
So I think you can put your anxiety aside. It's highly unlikely that this is IBC. There are several conditions that look like IBC, so having IBC symptoms is not the same as having IBC. Most of the time redness, itching, swelling, and skin dimpling turn out to be some sort of infection – either in the breast, like mastitis or on the skin, like dermatitis or a fungal rash. However, in any batch of IBC survivors, there will usually be a person whose symptoms didn't follow the usual pattern; so I'd encourage you to continue to watch this area and ask for a biopsy if it gets worse, or if it doesn't get better with the cream.
Melissa Ann, Phyllis is our IBC specialist, and I know she'll be giving you feedback here. But in the meantime, here's my 2¢ -
IBC is pretty aggressive, and doesn't come and go; topical creams won't affect it. I think the dermatologist and your PCP are right, this isn't IBC, but rather some odd rash, allergy, or other issue.
Next step? Well, I'd guess it depends on just how worried you are, and how serious about getting to the bottom of this. You might try getting a referral to a breast specialist, if you choose to pursue a diagnosis; that would seem to be the next logical step. Good luck - PJH