is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?
Breast Cancer (IBC)
is an advanced and accelerated form of breast cancer usually not detected
by mammograms or ultrasounds.
cancer requires immediate aggressive treatment with chemotherapy prior
to surgery and is treated differently than more common types of breast
have a higher incidence of IBC than do Caucasians and other ethnic groups
(10.1%, 6.2%, and 5.1%, respectively)." Source
the KOMO TV 4 video: The
Silent Killer: Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Read the KOMO
4 News Special Report dd May 7, 2006: Inflammatory
- Inflammatory breast
cancer is an uncommon type of breast cancer.
- This disease occurs
when cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast,
causing the breast to become red, swollen, and warm.
- Inflammatory breast
cancer usually grows rapidly and often spreads to other parts of the
- Treatment usually
starts with chemotherapy, generally followed by surgery and/or radiation.
is more than one kind of breast cancer
We have been taught
and are reminded frequently by public service announcements and by the
medical community that when a woman discovers a lump on her breast she
should go to the doctor immediately.
cancer usually grows in nests or sheets, rather than as a confined,
solid tumour and therefore can be diffuse throughout the breast with
no palpable mass. The cancer cells clog the lymphatic system just below
the skin. Lymph node involvement is assumed. Increased breast
density compared to prior mammograms should be considered suspicious.
Have to Have a Lump to Have Breast Cancer
Some women who have
inflammatory breast cancer may remain undiagnosed for long periods,
even while seeing their doctor to learn the cause of her symptoms.
The symptoms are similar to mastitis, a breast infection and some doctors,
not recognizing IBC, will prescribe antibiotics. If a response to antibiotics
is not apparent after a week, a biopsy should be performed or a referral
to a breast specialist is warranted.
52: Median age at time of diagnosis of
IBC ... versus
Age 62: Median age at time of diagnosis of Breast Cancer
A surprising portion
of young women with IBC had their
first symptoms during pregnancy or lactation. The misconception
that these young women are at lower risk for breast cancer and the fact
that IBC is the most aggressive form of breast cancer may result in
metastases when the diagnosis is made.
or more of the following are Typical Symptoms of IBC:
- Swelling, usually
sudden, sometimes a cup size in a few days
- Pink, red, or dark
colored area (called erythema) sometimes with texture similar to the
skin of an orange (called peau d'orange)
- Ridges and thickened
areas of the skin
- What appears to
be a bruise that does not go away
- Nipple retraction
- Nipple discharge,
may or may not be bloody
- Breast is warm
to the touch
- Breast pain (from
a constant ache to stabbing pains)
- Change in color
and texture of the aureole
showing common presentation of some of these symptoms.
what patients write about their own symptoms prior to diagnosis.
a 4:23 minute video about IBC
shown on NBC5 in Chicago.
Symptoms May Be Present in Benign Breast Disorders. See your doctor
if you have any of these symptoms.
is typically abbreviated as IBC.
Non-inflammatory breast cancer may include in its diagnosis the terms
"in situ breast cancer," "infiltrating breast cancer,"
or "invasive breast cancer" all of which may be abbreviated
with "ibc," but those
terms alone do not specify inflammatory breast
To add to the
possible confusion, the diagnosis may include more that one kind of
breast cancer; for example "inflammatory
breast cancer, invasive ductal carcinoma, and mucinous carcinoma"
all in the same breast.
So if a person
you know has been described as having IBC
or ibc, it may be well to ask what that is abbreviating, since it
may not be "inflammatory breast cancer" and therefore the
symptoms and other information presented here may not apply.
inflammatory breast cancer the same disease
in each person diagnosed?
clinicians don't know the answer to that question but hypothesize that
there are "types," "sub-types," or "categories"
of IBC. Typically, the sub-types
hypothesized are divided by presentation at time of diagnosis:
- clinical symptoms
only, with no pathological confirmation finding tumor emboli (tightly
packed clumps of tumor cells, like a bunch of grapes but very tightly
packed together) in the dermal lymphatics of the affected breast;
only, finding tumor emboli in the dermal lymphatics, without presentation
of clinical symptoms; and
- clinical and
Another way to categorize
IBC is by age and gender at time of diagnosis:
- There is documented
evidence of two cases in girls as young as 12-years-old,
one of whom had not begun menstruation.
- There are several
documented cases of male IBC.
- There are cases
diagnosed during pregnancy or lactation.
- And there are
cases that don't fall into any of the first three categories, but
are diagnosed in each of three menopausal periods of life: premenopausal,
perimenopausal, and postmenopausal.
Beyond those categories,
there are IBC cases that have special
- 3 cases diagnosed
in 10 months amongst 24 co-workers
- more than one
case in the same family: mother-daughter, sisters, and 1st
diagnosed in a breast with an implant
diagnosed post-hysterectomy, in some cases including oophorectomy
things doctors have told IBC patients about
their symptoms prior to their diagnosis with IBC:
- The doctor said
that if it was breast cancer he would be able to find a lump and not
just inflammation and swollen nodes, with a discharge and calcifications
in the breast tissue due to caffeine (which she doesn't drink.)
- The doctor said
she had spider bites when she developed skin metastasis following
treatment for regular breast cancer.
- After her mammogram
the radiologist told her to stop wearing under wire bras.
- She was told
to change bras and detergent to get rid of the rash.
- My sister was
told that her blue colored bruise was a fatty necrosis and no way
was it cancer.
- At age 20 she
was told the lump she felt was "rib cartilage" and not to
worry as she was too young to have breast cancer. She wasn't properly
diagnosed until 2 years and 3 exams later. She died of IBC
at age 25.
- She was told
she had regular breast cancer instead of IBC.
The doctor said he had seen plenty of IBC
cases and she didn't have it. (She did have IBC.
The clinical presentation of inflammatory breast cancer may vary from
patient to patient.)
- She had inflammation
with intense itching on one breast which appeared and disappeared
4 times. The first time it was diagnosed as spider bites.; the second
time as an allergic reaction to food or detergent, and irritation
from cyst fluid from fibrocystic breast the 3rd time. The 4th
time, she was diagnosed with inflammatory
- Her IBC
was first diagnosed as shingles.
- Finally, although
this woman had not been diagnosed with IBC
when she wrote this, it does not change the fact that her doctor's
explanation of how IBC starts is erroneous.
She was told she didn't need a biopsy because IBC
"starts with a lump which then disperses and she couldn't have
IBC because the lump would have
shown up on one of her previous mammograms."