Molokaʻi resident brings awareness to earlier screenings for Inflammatory Breast Cancer

March 4, 2023

Molokaʻi resident, Nancy Swartz, noticed redness and a lump on her right breast. Having breast cancer in her family and a husband with prostate cancer, Swartz took these symptoms seriously. She consulted her primary care physician who found her symptoms to be consistent with Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC). IBC is a rare form of breast cancer that gets its name from symptoms appearing swollen and red, or inflamed. IBC can present different symptoms than other types of breast cancer, such as rapid change in breast size or shape, redness or rash on the breast or nipple, pain or tenderness in the breast, nipple retraction or discharge, and enlarged lymph nodes under the arm or collarbone. IBC is commonly diagnosed at younger ages, frequently occurring in women under 40.

Aerial view of East Molokai, Hawaii
East Molokai aerial viewTravis.Thurston, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nancy Swartz
Nancy Swartz

With orders from her physician, Swartz traveled to Oʻahu to undergo a battery of tests at Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children and Pali Momi Medical Center.

Knowing how quickly this form of cancer progresses, she took an extra step and sought out a physician with expertise in IBC, hoping to get a second opinion. “I started writing to medical professionals that knew about IBC, sending them photos and asking if they thought I had a problem.” Her research led her to Dr. Naoto Ueno, UH Cancer Center Director and IBC specialist. She felt lucky that a leading world expert in IBC was located in Hawaiʻi and was willing to look at her chart and offer advice.

“Symptoms of IBC can also be caused by other conditions, such as infection, dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), or injury,” said Ueno. “However, if you notice any of these symptoms, especially if they appear suddenly and do not go away, it's important to ask your primary care physician whether you should receive a breast cancer evaluation. Inflammatory Breast Cancer can spread quickly, often within weeks or months, so early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for better outcomes.”

Nancy’s tests came back negative, but wants her experience to bring awareness to the symptoms of IBC and encourage women to get checked if they feel like something is wrong. “I want to tell women not to wait,” she said. “There can be a lot of tests and steps, but don’t be discouraged. Push through as quickly as possible. I am so grateful for the wonderful team of doctors at Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children and Pali Momi Medical Center. They took good care of me,” she said.

Consult with your primary care physician if you notice any symptoms or changes in your breast. An early, accurate diagnosis significantly increases chances for successful treatment. For more information about Inflammatory Breast Cancer, visit the National Cancer Institute.

Get screened

The UH Cancer Center provides access to over 85 clinical trials, including the Tomosynthesis Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (TMIST), a clinical trial that compares 2D and 3D mammography to learn the best way to find breast cancer in women who have no symptoms. To participate or learn more about this study, call (808) 564-5805 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..