Email Warns of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Status: True
I warn in Hippo Eats Dwarf that "Unsolicited e-mail is not a reliable source of information—about anything" (Reality Rule 7.4). This is especially true of all those random health-related claims that circulate via email warning of flesh-eating bananas, poisonous perfume, toxic tampons, etc. So it's refreshing to find an example of a health-related email warning that's actually true.

On May 7, Seattle's KOMO 4 News ran a segment about Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC), a deadly form of cancer that most women are totally unaware of. IBC doesn't present with typical symptoms (there's no lump), and it can't readily be detected with a mammogram. Instead women and doctors alike often mistake IBC's symptoms for rashes or insect bites.

The KOMO news segment soon inspired an email warning to start circulating. One version of the email, as reported on, reads:
The Silent Killer...Very IMPORTANT
Ladies, you MUST watch this video...this is not a joke...please read and watch. It's a form of Breast Cancer that I honestly had never even heard of. Stay healthy!
Please show this to other women you know, or print it out for them to read.
Within less than two months, this email had spread far and wide. So far that KOMO now reports that:
As of Thursday morning, amazingly, the video has been accessed a total of 10 million times, and has helped shed light on the important subject to several news agencies across the nation and world. We continue to hope the video helps provide important life-saving information and helps bring more awareness to a subject that not many people knew about.
It's cool that an email warning is actually serving a useful function, for once. But I think the advice that most unsolicited information received via email is garbage should still stand.

Email Hoaxes Health/Medicine

Posted on Fri Jun 30, 2006


Wow, great information. I live in Seattle and wasn't aware of this KOMO report. I am very glad to be informed about I.B.C. as I have never heard of it and have a family history of breast cancer. THANK YOU.
Posted by Jean V  on  Mon Jul 10, 2006  at  11:58 AM
I got the email and had another sendee on the list checking the info in the report by the clinical director of the Breast cancer centre :

From: Barbara Holland
To: xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Monday, February 16, 2009 7:22 PM
Subject: PLEASE! WATCH THIS VIDEO and forward it to ALL the women you know. THIS IS FOR REAL!!!!!

Hello to everyone on this email list
You will see below that I sought some expert clinical comment FYI (and mine) relating to IBC.
Hi Barbara,

As usual there are lots of true things said in this video but also lots
of melodrama and not quite so accurate stuff.

IBC is a very aggressive and uncommon subtype of breast cancer that
characteristically presents like an inflammation in the breast - like
mastitis. It classically causes "peau d'orange" (orange skin like
apprearance) due to blockage of the skin lymphatics causing oedema of
the skin and inflammation, and so called brawny induration (thickening
of the tissues and colour change).
Not uncommonly it is mistaken for mastitis (which is much more common),
but IBC does not resolve with antibiotics. Therefore if a red swollen
breast does not respond to this treatment it needs prompt specialist
It may or may not be apparent on mammography. By definition, IBC is at
least Stage IIIB at presentation unless metastases are found on staging
Prior to the chemotherapy era, IBC was uniformly fatal and considered
inoperable. With modern triple therapy - chemotherapy ( and endocrine
if hormone receptor positive), surgery and radiotherapy, 30-50% 5 year
survival rates are reported. Systemic therapy (drug treatment) comes

Hope this is helpful

Kind regards

Ian Campbell
Clinical Director Breast Care Centre
Breast and General Surgeon/Senior Lecturer
Waikato Hospital
Private Bag Hamilton
New Zealand
Ph - (..64 7) 839 8899
Fax (..64 7) 839 8824
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

>>> "Barbara Holland" <[email protected]> 15/02/2009 22:51
Dear Ian
This is an email that is being circulated among the local networks. I
had not heard of Inflammatory Breast Cancer before and I would be very
grateful if you would have the time to make some brief comment -
incidence rates, etc so I can send some signals in reply to the women on
this list at least.

Kind regards
Posted by maggie  on  Wed Mar 04, 2009  at  03:35 AM
There are some very false, and misleading articles out there for people who are trying to make a lot of money from sick patients. If you are worried about preventing breast cancer, you should consider taking vitamin D if you are not already doing so. Take a look at my hubs for some more information about breast cancer screening and prevention.
Posted by Answer A Day  on  Sat Jan 23, 2010  at  10:07 AM
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