Inflammatory Breast Cancer

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

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Breast Cancer Symptoms & Signs

Breast cancer does not always produce symptoms, but when symptoms do occur, a lump or mass in the breast is the most common symptom. Other possible symptoms include nipple discharge or redness, changes in the skin such as puckering or dimpling, and swelling of part of the breast. Certain types of cancers known as inflammatory breast cancers may produce redness and warmth of the affected breast, but these are not common symptoms of breast cancer.

Quick GuideBreast Cancer Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer facts

  • Inflammatory breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to the lymphatic system, causing symptoms of inflammation (redness, swelling, tenderness) in the breast.
  • Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include
    • swelling,
    • redness,
    • skin changes,
    • tenderness,
    • dimpling of the skin,
    • heaviness,
    • possibly, a lump or mass in the breast.
  • As with other types of breast cancer, a tissue biopsy is done to confirm the diagnosis of breast cancer.
  • Inflammatory breast cancers are stage III or stage IV at the time of diagnosis.
  • Treatment of inflammatory breast cancers is multimodal and involves surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer is more aggressive and tends to have a worse prognosis than other types of breast cancer.
  • Targeted therapies such as trastuzumab (Herceptin) or hormonal therapies may also be given, depending upon whether or not the tumor cells express hormone receptors or the HER2 protein.
  • Survival rates for inflammatory breast cancer are not as favorable as those for other types of breast cancer.

What is inflammatory breast cancer?

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare form of breast cancer. It is typically a very aggressive disease and is called "inflammatory" because the cancer cells block the lymphatic vessels, resulting in changes in the breast (swelling and redness) that make the breast appear to be inflamed. Over 230,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer each year; inflammatory breast cancers make up only 1%-5% of breast cancers.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/6/2015

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