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Breast cancer warning sign #2: Itchy breasts

7 Early Warning Signs of Breast Cancer: Page 2

By , Caring.com senior editor
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itchy

This symptom, primarily associated with inflammatory breast cancer, is often missed. You'd be surprised how many women with inflammatory breast cancer spend months visiting the dermatologist, only to be sent home with creams and medications for a rash.

How it feels: Extremely itchy -- the type of itch you might have with poison oak or ivy, which makes you feel like you absolutely have to scratch. Except scratching doesn't help, and neither do the ointments that typically relieve itchiness. Your breast may also feel irritated, or the skin may be scaly or dimpled like cellulite.

What causes it: Fast-growing cancer cells block blood and lymph vessels that feed the skin. The normal flow of lymph through breast tissues is impeded, and fluid builds up in and under the skin.

Scary stat: The median age of diagnosis for inflammatory breast cancer is 57 (54 among African-American women), and it's typically more aggressive than other types of breast cancer, with a five-year survival rate of 34 percent.

What to do: If the skin of your breast looks odd or your breasts feel different, see your doctor right away. If the doctor suggests a skin ailment or an infection and sends you home with a prescription, return immediately if your symptoms don't go away.