What is inflammatory breast cancer?

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare, fast-growing type of breast cancer. With this type of cancer, the cancer cells often do not form lumps in the breast. Instead, the cancer cells block the lymph fluid in the skin of the breast. This can make the breast look swollen and red and feel warm, as if it were infected. The swelling may cause lots of tiny dimples in the skin (orange peel appearance).

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer

Unlike other breast cancers, inflammatory breast cancer may not cause a lump in the breast. Instead, it may cause the breast to be swollen, red, and warm. The skin of the breast may look thick and pitted, like an orange peel. The nipple may become inverted, or it may sink inward. Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in the way your breast looks or feels.

How is inflammatory breast cancer treated?

Treatment is based on the stage of the cancer and other things, such as your overall health. It's important to start treatment right away for this fast-growing cancer.

The main treatments are:

Chemotherapy.

These medicines kill fast-growing cells, including cancer cells and some normal cells. They're given before surgery to shrink cancer or after surgery to help keep cancer from coming back.

Surgery.
The most common surgery removes the breast (mastectomy) and lymph nodes under the arm.
Radiation therapy.
This uses high-dose X-rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. Most people have radiation after surgery.

Other treatments include:

Endocrine therapy.
These medicines block hormones that cause certain cancers to grow.
Targeted therapy.
These medicines target cancer cells and may cause less harm to normal cells. They help keep cancer from growing or spreading.
Immunotherapy.
This treatment helps your immune system fight cancer.

Sometimes a clinical trial may be a good choice.

Your doctor will talk with you about your options and then make a treatment plan.

How is inflammatory breast cancer diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects you have inflammatory breast cancer, you may have a mammogram. The doctor may also take a sample of breast tissue (biopsy). The sample is checked for cancer cells. If cancer is found, you'll have more tests to see if the cancer has spread.

Cancer cells from the biopsy will be tested to find out more about the cancer. For example, tests can show if the cancer cells have receptors for hormones such as estrogen or progesterone. This helps your doctor know which medicines will work best for you.

It's important to diagnose inflammatory breast cancer quickly so that treatment can start right away. But this type of cancer is rare. It may be mistaken for another problem, like mastitis. Mastitis is usually treated with antibiotics. If your doctor prescribed antibiotics and your symptoms don't seem to be getting better after a week, call your doctor.

How can you care for yourself when you have inflammatory breast cancer?

You can take steps to help manage the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment. For example, follow your doctor's instructions to relieve pain. Take medicines as prescribed. Try to reduce stress and get enough sleep. You may find it helpful to join a support group or talk with a counselor.

How do you cope with having inflammatory breast cancer?

Inflammatory breast cancer is a very serious disease. If you have questions about this type of cancer or about your treatment, ask your doctor for more information.

Everyone deals with cancer differently. Remember that there's no right or wrong way to feel. It may help to connect with other people. Reach out to a friend or a loved one. Talking with others who have breast cancer can help. Check with your doctor's office to see if there is a local support group for people with breast cancer.

What is inflammatory breast cancer?

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare, fast-growing type of breast cancer. It is often called IBC for short.

Unlike other breast cancers, this type of cancer may not cause a lump in the breast. So screening mammograms often fail to catch it early. Because it grows so fast, it usually has spread by the time it is diagnosed.

What causes inflammatory breast cancer?

In this type of cancer, the cancer cells often do not form lumps in the breast. Instead, the cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. These vessels normally keep lymph fluid moving in the breast.

When the normal flow of lymph fluid is blocked, it can make the breast look swollen and red and feel warm, as if it were infected. The swelling may cause lots of tiny dimples in the skin. Sometimes it causes a lump that grows quickly, but you can have inflammatory breast cancer without having a lump in your breast.

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.