How Serious Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer is considered an aggressive cancer because it grows quickly, is more likely to have spread at the time its found, and is more likely to come back after treatment than other types of breast cancer. The outlook is generally not as good as it is for other types of breast cancer.
Symptoms Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Because the lymph channels are blocked, the breast might become:
- hot to the touch
The breast can also be painful in inflammatory breast cancer, but this is not always the case.
Other possible symptoms include:
- ridges or thickening of the skin of the breast
- pitted skin, like orange peel
- a lump in the breast
- a discharge from the nipple
- an inverted nipple the nipple is pulled into the breast
Inflammatory breast cancer symptoms can appear quite suddenly.
Inflammatory breast cancer is often confused with an infection of the breast . This is because the symptoms are very similar. Mastitis is uncommon in women who aren’t pregnant or breast feeding and it is particularly rare in women who have had their menopause.
Your doctor might give you a course of antibiotics if they think that you could have mastitis. But they will refer you to a specialist if they think you are unlikely to have an infection or if your symptoms dont clear up after antibiotics.
While inflammatory breast cancer can cause these particular symptoms, its worth being aware of the general symptoms of breast cancer.
Make an appointment to see your doctor if you notice any change in the look or feel of your breasts.
Your GP usually refers you to a breast clinic for tests.
You might have a:
- mammogram, which is an x-ray of the breast
- breast ultrasound
- biopsy of the skin in the breast
- biopsy of a breast lump
- MRI scan of the breast
Other tests may include a CT scan or PET-CT scan, and bone scan
Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer Curable
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form of breast cancer that occurs when tumor cells spread from the original site to other parts of the body. The disease usually affects women who are younger than 50 years old. There is no cure for inflammatory breast cancer, however, treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy, and biological therapy.
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What Are The First Signs Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer can be challenging to catch because it doesnt often cause a lump like more common forms of breast cancer. Instead, the first signs are related to inflammation in your affected breast. These symptoms make it easy to confuse IBC for a less serious condition, like an infection.
What You Can Do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, ask if there’s anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you’re experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you’re taking.
- Consider taking a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For inflammatory breast cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
In addition to the questions that you’ve prepared to ask your doctor, don’t hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.
How Early Can Ibc Be Diagnosed
Because of IBCs quick-growing and aggressive nature, combined with its tendency to be misdiagnosed, its commonly diagnosed at an advanced stage.
- IBC tends to grow in layers, which is why it can be missed during exams.
- On imaging, these sheets of tissue can resemble nests.
- Your doctor may be able to feel these areas of thickening on your skin, as well as possibly see areas of higher density on a mammogram.
- Routine blood tests may not pick up abnormalities related to inflammatory breast cancer.
Determining The Extent Of The Cancer
Additional tests may be necessary to determine whether your cancer has spread to your lymph nodes or to other areas of your body.
Tests may include a CT scan, positron emission tomography scan and bone scan. Not everyone needs every test, so your doctor will select the most appropriate tests based on your particular situation.
Your doctor uses information from these tests to assign your cancer a stage. Your cancer’s stage is indicated in Roman numerals. Because inflammatory breast cancer is aggressive and grows quickly, stages usually range from III to IV, with the higher stage indicating that cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
The cancer staging system continues to evolve and is becoming more complex as doctors improve cancer diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor uses your cancer stage to select the treatments that are right for you.
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Inflammatory Breast Cancer Treatment Information
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare, invasive type of cancer that accounts for about 1 to 5% of diagnosed breast cancers in the United States. Most cases are invasive ductal carcinomas, meaning that they originate in the milk duct cells and spread to the lymphatic vessels in the skin of the breast. A noticeable lump is rarely present, which can make inflammatory breast cancer hard to detect in its early stages.
What Are The Survival Rates For Ibc
IBC is a fast-growing and aggressive cancer. However, many factors may influence your outcome from IBC:
- The location, stage and whether or not the cancer has spread all can affect how you respond to treatment.
- Age and overall health also play a role.
While its true that this type of cancer has a lower survival rate than other forms of breast cancer, its important to remember that your situation is unique, and statistics are generated from previous patients and past treatments.
With localized IBC, meaning it hasnt spread to other organs, the five-year survival rate is about 39 percent. However, statistics on survival depend on several factors, including the cancers stage and the type of treatment you have. For instance, if cancer has spread to other organs in the body, the survival rate is about 18 percent. But if the cancer has spread to only nearby lymph nodes, the survival rate averages about 52 percent.
Expert cancer care
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Who Is Likely To Have Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Anyone can develop inflammatory breast cancer, but certain factors may raise your risk.
- Gender: IBC can affect people of all genders, but its more common in women and people assigned female at birth .
- Age: People with IBC tend to be younger than people with other forms of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is most commonly diagnosed in women and people AFAB who are younger than 40. The median age of diagnosis is 57.
- Race: People who are Black are more likely to get diagnosed with IBC than people who are white.
- Weight: People with obesity or overweight are more likely to get diagnosed than people with a BMI that falls within the normal range.
Stage 3 Inflammatory Breast Cancer Treatment
Treatment for stage 3 IBC typically includes a method called a multimodal approach, which involves a combination of three treatments:
- Systemic therapies. Systemic therapies impact organs and tissues throughout your body and can help to shrink the cancer before surgery. Some examples of systemic therapies include:
- chemotherapy, which uses strong drugs to kill cancer cells or slow their growth
- targeted therapy, which can specifically target cells that are HER2-positive
- hormone therapy, which can block the activity of hormone receptors on cancer cells
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What Is The Life Expectancy Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer has a median survival rate of about 2 years after diagnosis. The cause of death for patients with IBC is usually metastatic disease rather than primary tumor growth.
A recent study showed that people who ate a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet lost more fat and had greater improvements in insulin sensitivity than those following a standard low-fat diet. This suggests that a ketogenic diet may help improve blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes.
Our Approach To Inflammatory Breast Cancer
The Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program at Moffitt Cancer Center is led by experts with an unparalleled level of experience in addressing uncommon and aggressive malignancies like inflammatory breast cancer. Moffitt patients have access to a full spectrum of breast cancer screening, genetic counseling, preventive surgery and advanced clinical treatment from a multispecialty team. We also spearhead ambitious breast cancer research initiatives and clinical trials, as recognized by our status as a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Medically reviewed by Dr. Susan Hoover
Contact Moffitt at or complete a new patient registration form online if you would like to receive information about screening or speak with a Moffitt oncologist specializing in inflammatory breast cancer. We welcome patients with or without referrals.
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Are Red Rashes The Sign Of Bug Bite Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Sometimes the red rashes or bites turn out to be aggressive breast cancer. It doesnt mean every time you have an insect bite is a sign of breast cancer. In the case of bug bite inflammatory breast cancer, it looks like normal skin problems.
It may cause allergies, insect bites, heat rash, and sunburn. So how to confirm that the bug bite is an early sign of inflammatory breast cancer? Here is how to check for the red rashes as a sign of inflammatory breast cancer:
Symptoms And Signs Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
It’s critical to know and recognize the symptoms of IBC because this type of breast cancer can be very aggressive and needs to be promptly diagnosed so that treatment can begin.
- Redness. Redness of your breast is a hallmark symptom of inflammatory breast cancer. All or just part of your breast may be red the redness associated with IBC is not just a small spot.
- Swelling. One of your breasts may look enlarged, engorged, swollen, or hard/firm.
- Warm. The breast may feel warm to the touch.
- Tenderness. Your breast might feel tender, itchy, or sensitive.
- Orange peel appearance. The skin covering your breast might look dimpled like an orange peel. This sign is known as “peau d’ orange.”
- Other skin changes. Some patients might see welts, ridges, puckering, or roughness.
- Pain/discomfort. Pain or discomfort in the breast or nipple. Some women experience a burning sensation or aching.
- Inverted or flatten nipple. Especially if you haven’t had an inverted nipple before, or the nipple might be flattened out, not fully inverted.
- Swollen lymph nodes. You might feel swollen lymph nodes in your armpit or along your collarbone. Swollen lymph nodes alone are not a sign of cancer but should be checked out by a doctor.
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When To Seek Medical Attention
Pain, discomfort, and minor changes to the breasts arent always an indication of IBC. Sometimes, they can be due to another underlying condition.
However, since IBC is aggressive, early diagnosis and treatment are important. If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above or have noticed any abnormal changes to your breasts, consult with a doctor as soon as possible.
One of the most important ways to prepare for your appointment is by keeping track of symptoms youre concerned about. If possible, write down notes about:
- when the symptoms began
- how the symptoms feel
- anything else your doctor might need to know
After you and your doctor have reviewed your symptoms, they will likely perform a physical exam and review of your medical history to determine if there are other reasons for your symptoms.
Its likely that your doctor will also want to perform diagnostic testing, which may include:
Where Do These Numbers Come From
The American Cancer Society relies on information from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database, maintained by the National Cancer Institute , to provide survival statistics for different types of cancer.
The SEER database tracks 5-year relative survival rates for breast cancer in the United States, based on how far the cancer has spread. The SEER database, however, does not group cancers by AJCC TNM stages . Instead, it groups cancers into localized, regional, and distant stages:
- Localized: There is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the breast.
- Regional: The cancer has spread outside the breast to nearby structures or lymph nodes.
- Distant: The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body such as the lungs, liver or bones.
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What To Expect From Your Doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow more time later to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
Ask your healthcare provider about what your cancer diagnosis means for your treatment options and likely outcomes. Questions to ask include:
- What stage is my breast cancer?
- Which specialists will be involved in my care?
- What treatment options would you recommend?
- What outcomes should I expect from treatment?
- What are potential side effects or complications related to treatment?
- Can you connect me with resources ?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare type of cancerthat spreads quickly. Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider immediately if you notice changes in your breasts, especially a change in one breast but not the other. The changes may be a sign of a less serious condition, like an infection. Still, IBC spreads fast. If your symptoms are a sign of inflammatory breast cancer, youll want to begin treatment as early as possible. Dont delay seeking care that can potentially improve your prognosis.
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Inflammatory Breast Cancer Staging
Another factor that sets inflammatory breast cancer apart from other breast malignancies is its staging. Because this specific condition immediately affects both the tissue and skin of the breast, all cases of inflammatory breast cancer start in stage 3B. This makes it difficult to separate early signs of cancer from its later-stage symptoms.
What Causes Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Most inflammatory breast cancer is considered invasive ductal carcinoma. Ductal carcinoma is cancer that forms from cells lining your milk ducts. An invasive ductal carcinoma is cancer that spreads beyond your milk ducts, invading healthy tissue. Researchers dont know what causes these cells to become malignant .
Inflammatory breast cancer develops when cancer cells block lymph vessels. Lymph vessels are hollow tubes in your lymphatic system that allow lymph fluid to drain out of your breast. The blockage causes your breast to become red, swollen and inflamed. In most cases of IBC, cancer cells spread outward from your lymph vessels. Cancer that has metastasized affects your other organs and is harder to treat.
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Questions About Inflammatory Breast Cancer Answered
Inflammatory breast cancer accounts for only about 2-4% of new breast cancer diagnoses each year. But because its so aggressive, it makes up a disproportionate number of breast cancer-related deaths annually, even though its rare.
IBC has been called both the silent killer and the master metastasizer, because its often misdiagnosed and it spreads so quickly, explains Wendy Woodward, M.D., Ph.D. Thats why speed is so critical in both the diagnosis and treatment of inflammatory breast cancer.
We spoke with Woodward to learn more. Heres what she wants people to know about inflammatory breast cancer.
What are the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer, and how do they differ from other types?
Classic inflammatory breast cancer symptoms develop fairly quickly , and can include swollen breasts, red skin and nipple inversion. Unlike other types of breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer doesnt usually show up as a lump or appear in a screening mammogram, which is why its often misdiagnosed.
Is there a genetic component to this disease? Are any screening tests available?
Are some people more likely to develop inflammatory breast cancer than others?
Yes. IBC tends to occur most in two groups: post-menopausal women and young mothers. In the latter, its development seems to be influenced by normal changes that take place in breast tissue after childbirth .
Why is getting an accurate diagnosis so important with inflammatory breast cancer?