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Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Facts and Information

  • Publish Date : 2009/01/09 - (Rev. 2017/06/25)
  • Author : Thomas C. Weiss
  • Contact : Disabled World

Synopsis: Inflammatory Breast Cancer is a form of cancer that requires immediate and very aggressive forms of treatment with chemotherapy.

Main Document

Breast cancers vary in form and there is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory Breast Cancer requires chemotherapy before any surgical intervention, and it is treated differently than other, more common forms of breast cancer.

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. Inflammatory breast cancer is an especially aggressive type of breast cancer that can occur in women of any age (and extremely rarely, in males).

Public service announcements and education through various organizations and the medical community have taught us that when a woman discovers a lump on their breast they should see their doctor immediately.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer is somewhat different in that it grows in sheets, or nests instead of in a confined, solid tumor. Because of this type of growth it can be diffuse throughout the breast and have no palpable mass that can be felt as a lump. Instead, cancer cells in the lymphatic system clog that system right below the skin, and because of this lymph node involvement is assumed. The density of the breast, and an increase in that density compared to prior mammograms, is considered something to be suspicious of.

It is important to remember that you do not have to discover a lump in your breast in order to have Breast Cancer.

Many women who have Inflammatory Breast Cancer continue to go undiagnosed for extended periods of time, even though they have seen their doctor to find out about symptoms they have been experiencing.

Some of the symptoms are similar to mastitis, which is a breast infection.

Some doctors who do not recognize Inflammatory Breast Cancer prescribe antibiotics to treat a mastitis instead of recognizing an inflammatory Breast Cancer. Should your doctor prescribe antibiotics in this situation, and a response to those antibiotics in not apparent within a weeks time; a biopsy needs to be performed or you should be referred to a doctor who specializes in Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

There is a difference in the ages of women who are diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer versus Breast Cancer.

  • The median age at the time of diagnosis for women who are diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer is fifty-six.
  • The median age for women who are diagnosed with Breast Cancer is sixty-two.

Surprisingly, there are a portion of young women who have experienced their first symptoms of Inflammatory Breast Cancer during pregnancy or lactation. There is a misconception that younger women are somehow at a lower risk for Breast Cancer. The fact is that Inflammatory Breast Cancer is the most aggressive form of Breast Cancer. It may very well metastasize.

There is a foundation called the, 'Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation,' or, 'IBC Research Foundation,' that is dedicated to researching the cause of Inflammatory Breast Cancer. The IBC Research Foundation recognizes that this form of Breast Cancer is not usually detected by mammograms or ultrasound imaging tests, and is actively pursuing research.


  • While the majority of patients are between 40 and 59 years old, age predilection is much less pronounced than in non-inflammatory breast cancer.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer accounts 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.

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