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 ​D E L A W A R E   DERMATOLOGY 

October 13, 2021


Breast Cancer and the Skin



October 13th (a.k.a. Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day).  In an effort to do our part in the fight against breast cancer, we thought it important to shed light on this topic and how some forms of this cancer can relate to the skin.  Research has shown that roughly 1 in 8 women within the United States (or 13%) are projected to develop breast cancer at some point during their lifetime.  It should also be noted that, while it is much less common, it is also possible for men to develop breast cancer.  As such, it is important to understand the warning signs and symptoms.  Some of the most commonly discussed symptoms include: change in the shape of the breast(s)/an increased size of the breast(s); change in the appearance of the nipple(s); pain in or on any part of the breast; feeling a new lump/bump when conducting a breast exam; etc.  Additionally, common preventative measures include conducting a monthly self-breast exam, and, if you are above the age of 40, undergoing a yearly mammogram.  Undoubtedly these measures have aided in early diagnosis, and, in many cases, early diagnosis has a higher likelihood of leading to a successful outcome.  With this being said, however, it is important to also highlight skin changes on or around the breasts that can occur as a result of one having breast cancer.  One type of breast cancer that directly involves the skin is that of Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  According to U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics (2021), “Inflammatory breast cancer is an aggressive and fast-growing breast cancer in which cancer cells infiltrate the skin and lymph vessels of the breast,” (para 1).  Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) only accounts for 1-5% of all breast cancers (American Cancer Society, 2021).  Be that as it may, however, this form of breast cancer has the tendency to be more aggressive in nature.  As is stated by the American Cancer Society (2021), “Symptoms [of IBC] include breast swelling, purple or red color of the skin, and dimpling or thickening of the skin of the breast so that it may look and feel like an orange peel,” (para 2).  The American Cancer Society (2021) further notes that with IBC, even though a lump may be present, one may not be able to feel such (para 2).

Throughout his career, Dr. Andrews has successfully diagnosed several patients with IBC.  While some of those diagnosed with IBC were already undergoing treatment for other forms of cancer, others were completely unaware that cancer was even a possibility.  When one develops a rash on the skin, it is often not even on one’s horizon that this could be a serious condition in and of itself, or, at the very least, a byproduct of a more serious condition. While the tendency might be to overlook various conditions of the skin/hair/nails and dismiss them as being “not serious,” it is important to remind oneself of how interconnected the skin/hair/nails are to all parts of the body. Inflammatory Breast Cancer is a perfect example of a condition that presents itself on the skin but is directly linked to cancer of the breast(s). Through spreading awareness of various conditions and how they relate to the skin/hair/nails, it is our hope to aid individuals in attaining earlier diagnoses. While these conditions may still arise, earlier diagnoses could lead individuals to having a higher likelihood of achieving a successful outcome. And ultimately, by bringing awareness to at least one unknowing individual, our odds of winning the fight against Breast Cancer will increase for all.   


 



References

American Cancer Society. (2021, January 12). Inflammatory breast cancer: Details, diagnosis, and signs. American Cancer Society. Retrieved October 13, 2021, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/about/types-of-breast-cancer/inflammatory-breast-cancer.html. 

U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics. Breastcancer.org. (2021, February 4). Retrieved October 13, 2021, from https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics.