Pamela Jones, MA
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare form of
breast cancer. Cancer is the uncontrolled division and growth of cells. As the cancer cells grow, they crowd out healthy cells and interfere with normal body processes. In most cases, the cell growth forms a mass (ie, tumor). However, IBC cells grow in more of a sheet-like shape.
IBC is an aggressive form of cancer that can be hard to detect. It may look like
mastitis, which is simply inflammation of the breast. Early diagnosis and treatment are important. The sooner treatment is started for IBC, the more favorable the outcome.
The exact cause of IBC and all breast cancers is not known.
The average age for women with IBC (59 years old) is lower than that of women with other breast cancers. African American women also have a slightly higher risk of IBC.
Some factors that increase your risk for any type of breast cancer include:
Note: Studies show that most women with known risk factors do not get breast cancer. Many women who get breast cancer have none of the risk factors listed above.
If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to IBC. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. As the IBC cells get into the skin and lymph ducts they may cause signs and symptoms such as:
Some of these symptoms are similar to a condition known as
mastitis. However, mastitis should respond to treatment . If it does not, talk to your doctor again right away.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also be done. Since IBC develops in a sheet-like pattern instead of lumps, it is hard to find by a breast exam or
If your doctor suspects IBC, she may order:
If cancer is detected, the cancerous tissue will also be tested to look for:
Cancer treatments vary from person to person. Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. The goal is to treat the IBC locally and to prevent it from spreading and recurring. Common treatment options include the following:
is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given in many forms including pill, injection, and via a catheter. The drugs travel through the body in the blood, killing mostly cancer cells. Some healthy cells are killed as well. Chemotherapy drugs for IBC may include:
The timing of surgery can be an important factor in the outcome. Surgical options may include:
Some surgical procedures may also be done to determine if the cancer has spread:
is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells. Two main types of radiation may be used:
There are other factors about your specific type of cancer that can affect treatment such as:
It is important to catch IBC as early as possible. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, see your doctor right away. If you are being treated for mastitis that is not responding to treatment, see your doctor again.
Breast exams may help identify changes in your breast such as the “orange-peel skin” effect. For breast exams, the
American Cancer Society
Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
Women’s Health Matters
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Last reviewed November 2012 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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