Inflammatory Breast Cancer

What is inflammatory breast cancer?

Inflammatory breast cancer is a locally advanced breast cancer that may not be detected by mammogram or ultrasound.

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer, accounting for approximately 1% to 6% of all breast cancers diagnosed in the United States.

Inflammatory breast cancer is now separated from other forms of locally advanced breast cancer. It is marked by:

  • A shortened survival.
  • A higher incidence of HER2-positive and endocrine receptor negative cancers.

It is often diagnosed at a younger age compared to non-inflammatory locally advanced breast cancers.

What are the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer?

Unlike the more common form of breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer does not generally show up as a lump. The disease grows as nests or sheets that clog the lymph system under the skin. Often the symptoms are attributed to other diseases. Therefore, the diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer may be delayed.

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:

  • Pain in the breast. Often inflammatory breast cancer is mistaken as a breast infection and treated with antibiotics. If response to antibiotics doesn't occur after a week, request a breast biopsy or referral to a breast specialist.
  • Skin changes in the breast area. You may find pink or reddened areas often with the texture and thickness of an orange.
  • A bruise on the breast that doesn't go away.
  • Sudden swelling of the breast.
  • Itching of the breast.
  • Nipple retraction or discharge.
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes under the arm or in the neck.

These changes often occur quickly, over a period of weeks.

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Inflammatory Breast Cancer - Symptoms Question: What were your symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer?

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) Prognosis

Prognosis describes the likely course and outcome of a disease -- that is, the chance that a patient will recover or have a recurrence. IBC is more likely to have metastasized (spread to other areas of the body) at the time of diagnosis than non-IBC cases. As a result, the 5-year survival rate for patients with IBC is between 25 and 50 percent, which is significantly lower than the survival rate for patients with non-IBC breast cancer. It is important to keep in mind, however, that these statistics are averages based on large numbers of patients. Statistics cannot be used to predict what will happen to a particular patient because each person's situation is unique. Patients are encouraged to talk to their doctors about their prognosis given their particular situation.

SOURCE: National Cancer Institute