What is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 29 October 2018
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Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare, but also considered most aggressive of the types of breast cancer. It looks quite different than other forms of breast cancer because cancer cells block the lymph nodes or ducts in the breast, causing the breast to become inflamed, painful, have a different appearance than the unaffected breast, and be hot to the touch. One of the significant troubles with inflammatory breast cancer is that it usually is not diagnosed until these symptoms are present, and they occur quickly over just a few months. The cancer is so aggressive that it may have already spread before diagnosis is made, even if symptoms only began a month or two before diagnosis and treatment.

Even though aggressive treatment is attempted, survival rates for inflammatory breast cancer remain too low, in the nature of 25-50% at the five-year mark. A significant number of clinical trials are underway to boost survival rates and help those affected beat these statistics. It’s also important to remember that statistics, though frightening, are only numbers. Each person is unique and will respond differently to treatment. The cancer is also rare, accounting for only 1-5% of all reported breast cancer cases.


Treatment for inflammatory breast cancer is staged. First treatment is chemotherapy, to address not only cancerous cells in the breast tissue, but also to kill cancerous cells that may have metastasized to other parts of the body. Total mastectomy and removal of lymph ducts in the underarms is necessary in early stages to stop spread of cancer. After chemotherapy and mastectomy, people with inflammatory breast cancer also usually undergo localized radiation treatments. Radiation therapy is aimed specifically at the chest and remaining breast or underarm tissue.

When initial treatments are finished, women usually begin taking drugs designed to suppress estrogen, which may help to slow redevelopment or growth of any remaining cancer cells. Patients may also receive additional chemo and/or radiation to help reduce chance of recurrence. Many patients opt to participate in clinical trials or to pursue complementary medical approaches to improve chance of full recovery. Chance of recurrence remains and many find benefit from support groups, or direct work with a therapist or social worker, since inflammatory breast cancer is life-altering, and can be frightening in its sudden onset.

One of the largest concerns about inflammatory breast cancer is that it is so often diagnosed when treatment is unlikely to be of benefit. Cancer cells can quickly spread to other major organs, creating extreme urgency in finding better ways to diagnose the condition sooner, and identifying possible causes that might help women avoid this condition.



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Post 1

What are they symptoms of IFC? Can some have minimal symptoms and still be positive for IFC?

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