Breast cancer is a malignant disease that affects primarily women due to an uncontrollable growth of cells in the breast. The breast includes three parts: the glands that produce milk, the ducts that transport milk to the nipple, and the connective fibrous and fatty tissues that holds everything together. Breast cancer can affect any part of the breast, with the most common being those that start in the ducts.

Improvements in prevention and diagnosis have resulted in earlier diagnosis and treatment, but breast cancer is still the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States. The disease can be diagnosed in either men or women — although it is considered rare in men — and it is known to be caused by an acquired or inherited DNA mutation. Despite the fact that the causes of this defect are not fully understood, there are risk factors known to contribute to the development of the disease.

Skin Irritation or Dimpling as a Symptom of Breast Cancer

A breast mass or lump is the most common symptom of breast cancer and is usually what women look for in a breast self-exam. But it is important to look for other alterations in the breast and nipple, including changes in the shape or size and the appearance of the skin, like thickness or abnormal coloration. Skin irritation or dimpling, with texture similar to an orange peel, is also a sign that might indicate breast cancer. While it may occur due to other causes, skin irritation or dimpling can be related to inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a rare but aggressive type of the condition.

IBC is caused by inflammatory breast cancer, resulting from an inflamed tissue and blockage of the lymph vessels in the skin. It is important that women see their physician and report the abnormal appearance.

There are also benign causes for the skin to become dimpled. Occasionally mistaken for breast cancer, a condition known as fat necrosis may also cause skin irritation or dimpling. This happens when the fatty tissue in the breast become damaged and dies, causing a lump to form. The symptoms might be similar, which is why physicians often request a needle biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Management of Skin Irritation or Dimpling in Breast Cancer

To manage abnormal breast skin conditions, a physician must find its underlying cause. According to the American Cancer Society: “Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) that has not spread outside the breast or nearby lymph nodes is stage IIIB or IIIC. The usual treatment is chemotherapy to try to shrink the tumor, followed by surgery to remove the cancer. Radiation follows surgery. In some cases, more chemo may be given after radiation. Combining these three types of treatment, starting with systemic chemo that reaches cells throughout the body, followed by local therapy (with surgery and radiation) has improved survival significantly over the years.”

Chemotherapy, which can be administered orally or intravenously, enters the patient’s bloodstream in order to reach and destroy cancer cells anywhere in the body. When used before surgery, it is known as neoadjuvant chemotherapy, and the most common drugs used are anthracyclines like doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and epirubicin (Ellence), or taxanes like paclitaxel (Taxol) and docetaxel (Taxotere).

Radiation therapy is generally administered after surgery (adjuvant radiation) to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. If the cancer is HER2-positive, targeted therapy with drugs like trastuzumab (Herceptin) are also possible either as part of the therapy.

Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.