Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) 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.”Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include swelling (edema) and redness (erythema) that affect a third or more of the breast. The skin of the breast may also appear pink, reddish purple, or bruised. In addition, the skin may have ridges or appear pitted, like the skin of an orange (called peau d'orange). Inflammatory breast cancer is typically considered a locally-advanced breast cancer and is treated aggressively with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and/or HER2 targeted therapy as appropriate.IBC is less common than non-inflammatory breast cancer, but its poor prognosis highlights the importance of raising awareness about this cancer. IBC accounts for an estimated two percent breast cancer diagnoses in the U.S., but seven percent of breast cancer deaths.3 Furthermore, from the late 1980s to the late 1990s, the incidence of IBC increased by roughly 25 percent.3 Risk factors for IBC are poorly understood, and currently it is not possible to estimate a woman’s risk for this type of cancer. IBC tends to occur at a younger age than other types of breast cancer, however, prompting interest in the role of genetic predisposition and early-life exposures.3 Rates of IBC increase rapidly up to age 50 and then stabilize
Proper diagnosis and staging of inflammatory breast cancer helps doctors develop the best treatment plan and estimate the likely outcome of the disease. Patients diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer may want to consult a doctor who specializes in this disease.
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 .