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What Is Ibc Breast Cancer

Signs And Symptoms Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

What is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

Inflammatory breast cancer causes a number of signs and symptoms, most of which develop quickly , including:

  • Swelling of the skin of the breast
  • Redness involving more than one-third of the breast
  • Pitting or thickening of the skin of the breast so that it may look and feel like an orange peel
  • A retracted or inverted nipple
  • One breast looking larger than the other because of swelling
  • One breast feeling warmer and heavier than the other
  • A breast that may be tender, painful or itchy
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes under the arms or near the collarbone

If you have any of these symptoms, it does not mean that you have IBC, but you should see a doctor right away. Tenderness, redness, warmth, and itching are also common symptoms of a breast infection or inflammation, such as mastitis if youre pregnant or breastfeeding. Because these problems are much more common than IBC, your doctor might suspect infection at first as a cause and treat you with antibiotics.

Treatment with antibiotics may be a good first step, but if your symptoms dont get better in 7 to 10 days, more tests need to be done to look for cancer. Let your doctor know if it doesn’t help, especially if the symptoms get worse or the affected area gets larger. The possibility of IBC should be considered more strongly if you have these symptoms and are not pregnant or breastfeeding, or have been through menopause. Ask to see a specialist if youre concerned.

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 Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and very aggressive disease in which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. This type of breast cancer is called inflammatory because the breast often looks swollen and red, or inflamed.

Inflammatory breast cancer is rare, accounting for 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the United States. Most inflammatory breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas, which means they developed from cells that line the milk ducts of the breast and then spread beyond the ducts.

Inflammatory breast cancer progresses rapidly, often in a matter of weeks or months. At diagnosis, inflammatory breast cancer is either stage III or IV disease, depending on whether cancer cells have spread only to nearby lymph nodes or to other tissues as well.

Additional features of inflammatory breast cancer include the following:

  • Compared with other types of breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer tends to be diagnosed at younger ages.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer is more common and diagnosed at younger ages in African American women than in white women.
  • Inflammatory breast tumors are frequently hormone receptor negative, which means they cannot be treated with hormone therapies, such as tamoxifen, that interfere with the growth of cancer cells fueled by estrogen.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer is more common in obese women than in women of normal weight.

Also Check: What Are The Side Effects Of Breast Cancer

A Few Ways We Have Helped

Education from the IBC Network Foundation, I think was truly part of me becoming, finally, NED through treatment.


When I was first diagnosed, they told me that they would never call me cured, but that it would just be called NED. Somehow within the past couple of years, its changed. They told me that after 7 years, they would consider me cured. Times are changing, things are changing. There is hope.


having the knowledge and evidence based materials at my fingertips has really been beneficial in the steering of my treatment. My oncologist, my team, has been fantastic at following that evidence base, but actually knowing what I should be expecting and knowing how to advocate for myself has been the most important piece of my treatment plan and The IBC Network Foundation has really given me two legs to stand on when it comes to being in charge of my own treatment plan


Im very appreciative of The IBC Network and Terry Arnold, and this whole community. We are truly better together. Its amazing to have a network of people to lean on.


The IBC Network Foundation made a huge difference for me. They helped me find the right treatment after the initial hospital did not want to do radiation and surgery since I was stage 4 already. I had surgery and radiation, finished in July 2019, and have been NED since.




Thick Area Around The Breast

Missy McMurray (@diamonddarling)

Yet another one of the factors that pose as the early signs of breast cancer is the feeling of a thick area around the breast. If you have a spot around your breast that does feel less squishy and instead feels tight and dense, it is possible a sign of breast cancer.

The thickening of the breast tissues is often common during menstruation or even if you are breastfeeding. The problem arises if the condition is persistent and doesnt go away. If you find that instead of healing, the same is getting bigger and spreading around, it is possible that the same could be a sign of breast cancer.

This thick presence is mainly because of the accumulation of the cancer cells which then on block the circulation around the breasts. It is quite different from the hard lump that many people often tend to confuse this with.

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What Complications Are Associated With Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Treatment for IBC can bring its own set of complications, such as lymphedema after removal of lymph nodes.

Because IBC develops so quickly, the condition has usually spread to other tissues by the time it is diagnosed. This metastasis can create a need for additional treatment to other areas of the body. IBC is also more likely to recur compared to other forms of breast cancer.

Can Inflammatory Breast Cancer Be Prevented

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent IBC . Thats why, in an interview with Flo, breast surgical oncologist Dr. Carlie Thompson says that routine screening for breast cancer is important: It catches breast cancer in its earliest form. Carlie says that the majority of cases of breast cancer are diagnosed via breast cancer screenings, like mammograms. During a mammogram, an x-ray is taken of your breasts to look for abnormal findings that may signify cancer. Mammography can identify cancer years before it could be felt.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women aged 4554 get annual mammograms.

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Symptoms And Signs Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Its 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 havent 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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What Is The Difference Between Inflammatory Breast Cancer And Other Types Of Breast Cancer

How is inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) diagnosed? – Reston Hospital Center

There are quite a lot of distinct differences. Inflammatory breast cancer differs from other types of breast cancer in the following ways:

  • The appearance of IBC is quite different from that of typical breast cancer. There is no breast lump, and a mammogram would not be able to detect it. Hence, diagnosis of IBC is difficult.
  • IBC is more common in women younger than 40 years.
  • African American women are more likely to develop IBC than white women.
  • IBC is more common among obese or overweight women.
  • IBC is much more aggressive than other types of cancer.
  • Unlike typical breast cancer that can be detected in its earlier stage, IBC is often detected at a later stage.
  • The chances of metastasis in IBC are quite high compared with those in other types of breast cancer.
  • Women with IBC tend to have a worse treatment outcome than those with other common types of breast cancer.

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Tests For Diagnosis And Staging

To diagnose inflammatory breast cancer, your doctor will perform a biopsy. Biopsy is a surgical procedure that removes some of the suspicious breast tissue for examination under a microscope.

Because inflammatory breast cancer usually does not begin as a distinct lump, but instead as changes to the skin, a skin punch biopsy is often used to make the diagnosis. During this type of biopsy, the doctor uses a circular tool to remove a small section of the skin and its deeper layers, and then stitches the wound closed. If your doctor can see a distinct lesion, he or she may perform an ultrasound-guided core needle biopsy. Ultrasound is an imaging method that places a sound-emitting device on the breast to obtain images of the tissues inside. Guided by the ultrasound, the doctor inserts a hollow needle into the breast to remove several cylinder-shaped samples of tissue from the area of suspicion.

If the biopsy shows that inflammatory breast cancer is present, your doctor will order additional tests to figure out how much of the breast tissue and lymph nodes are involved, and whether or not the other breast is affected. Breast MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, is considered the most reliable test for gathering more information about inflammatory breast cancer.

Once IBC is diagnosed, additional tests are used to determine whether the cancer has spread outside the breast to other organs, such as the lungs, bones, or liver. This is called staging. Tests that may be used include:

What Does Early Stage Ibc Look Like

IBC symptoms are caused by cancer cells blocking lymph vessels in the skin causing the breast to look inflamed. Symptoms include breast swelling, purple or red color of the skin, and dimpling or thickening of the skin of the breast so that it may look and feel like an orange peel.

Similarly, Is IBC rash itchy?

Early IBC symptoms may include persistent itching and the appearance of a rash or small irritation similar to an insect bite. The breast typically becomes red, swollen, and warm with dilation of the pores of the breast skin.

Additionally, Does IBC appear overnight? IBC is fast-growing cancer that can block lymph vessels and blood vessels in the breast. This causes signs and symptoms to develop quickly, sometimes seemingly overnight, or over a few weeks or months.

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How Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer Treated

Inflammatory breast cancer is generally treated first with systemic chemotherapy to help shrink the tumor, then with surgery to remove the tumor, followed by radiation therapy. This approach to treatment is called a multimodal approach. Studies have found that women with inflammatory breast cancer who are treated with a multimodal approach have better responses to therapy and longer survival. Treatments used in a multimodal approach may include those described below.

Sudden Change In Breast Size

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IBC can change the appearance of the breasts. This change can occur suddenly. Because this cancer can cause inflammation and swelling, breast enlargement or thickness can occur.

The affected breast may appear noticeably larger than the other breast or feel heavy and hard.

If youve always had symmetrical breasts and you notice a sudden increase or decrease in the size of one breast, speak with your doctor to rule out IBC.

You may be familiar with the fact that there are different stages of breast cancer. These stages are used to reflect how far the cancer has progressed.

At the time of diagnosis, all cases of IBC are either at stage 3 or stage 4:

  • Stage 3. In stage 3 IBC, the cancer has spread to some of the tissues surrounding the breast. This can include nearby lymph nodes, the skin of the breast, and the tissues of the chest wall.
  • Stage 4. In stage 4 IBC, the cancer has spread to more distant areas of the body, such as the lungs, liver, or bones. This is called metastasis. According to the ACS, its estimated that IBC has metastasized in

diagnostic criteria for IBC include:

  • breast redness, swelling, dimpling, or warmth that comes on quickly, with or without a detectable lump or mass
  • redness that includes at least a third of the breast
  • symptoms that have lasted for no longer than 6 months
  • confirmation of the presence of cancer cells through a biopsy

Now lets explore the diagnostic methods that can be used for IBC in a little more detail.

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What Are The Stages Of Ibc And What Do They Mean

IBC doesnt usually appear like typical breast cancer, and it may be hard to catch early. Because of this, by the time IBC is diagnosed, its progressed to a more advanced stage. IBC is a type of cancer that grows into the skin, which means its already at stage 3 when it develops. So, while it forms in the milk ducts, there’s no way to know a person has the disease until outward signs appear. Usually, you’ll see changes in your skin because the lymph vessels are blocked.

Part of the diagnostic process involves your care team determining the specific stage of breast cancer. These include:

  • Stage 3B, which means cancer has spread to nearby areas of the breast, such as the ribs and muscles in the chest or the skin
  • Stage 3C, which means the tumor is larger or has spread to nearby tissues
  • Stage 4, which means the cancer has spread to other areas of the body

Its important for an accurate and timely diagnosis and staging so treatment can be started without delay.

What Can Skin Changes On The Breast Mean

It can be scary to spot a change in your breasts, but if you notice that the skin of your breast is red, swollen, or warm, theres usually no reason to worry. Breast skin can be quite sensitive, so there are lots of common conditions and causes for breast skin changes, and the vast majority are not too much of a concern.

Some of the most common causes include:

Although most of the causes of a rash on the breast arent much to worry about, its important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of more serious conditions.

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What Is Inflammatorybreast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rapidly progressing and very aggressive disease in which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. This type of breast cancer is called inflammatory because the breast often looks swollen and red, or inflamed.

Inflammatory breast cancer progresses rapidly, often in a matter of weeks or months. At diagnosis, inflammatory breast cancer is either stage III or IV disease, depending on whether cancer cells have spread only to nearby lymph nodes or to other tissues as well.

Learn more about IBC symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options. More >

What Are The Symptoms

Inflammatory breast cancer diagnosis and treatment

Inflammatory breast cancer can present in a number of ways. The symptoms are persistent and tend to develop relatively quickly . Heres what to watch for:

  • Skin inflammation The skin of the breast can become warm and puffy and look like the peel of an orange .
  • Nipple changes The nipple can become flat or inverted.
  • Swelling One breast can significantly increase in size.
  • Discoloration The skin of the breast can become very red or almost purple.
  • Pain The breast can become tender.

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When Should I Call My Doctor If I Am Concerned About Inflammatory Breast Cancer

If you notice any changes to your breast, even if you do not feel a lump, you should contact your doctor immediately. With further testing, your doctor can determine whether IBC may be a concern.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/27/2018.


  • American Cancer Society. Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Accessed 11/1/2018.
  • Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Accessed 11/1/2018.
  • The IBC Network Foundation. What is Inflammatory Breast Cancer? Accessed 11/1/2018.
  • National Breast Cancer Foundation. Inflammatory Breast Cancer . Accessed 11/1/2018.
  • National Cancer Institute. Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Accessed 11/1/2018.

Stage 4 Inflammatory Breast Cancer Treatment

Cancer thats spread to more distant areas of the body is typically treated using one or a combination of the systemic therapies mentioned above. These include:

  • chemotherapy

Its unclear exactly what causes IBC to occur. In general, cancer develops due to genetic changes. These can happen due to a variety of factors, such as:

  • genetic changes inherited from your parents
  • errors that naturally occur during cell division
  • damage to DNA through environmental exposures

Sometimes mutations can happen in genes that are associated with cell growth and division. When this happens, cells can begin to grow and divide out of control.

In IBC, cells in the breast ducts or lobules begin to rapidly grow and divide. As cancer cells build up, they block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. These leads to the redness, swelling, and dimpling associated with IBC.

There are a few risk factors associated with developing IBC. These include:

  • Age. IBC typically occurs in younger women.
  • Weight. People that have overweight or obesity are more likely to develop IBC.
  • Race. Research shows that IBC occurs more frequently in Black women compared with white women.

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