Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

What is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

Inflammatory breast cancer is an uncommon form of breast cancer which spreads fast and affects the breast and makes it to turn red. The breast turns to swell up and gets loosened.

As the cancer cells obstruct the lymphatic vessels present in the skin which covers the breast, inflammatory breast cancer occurs. The first characteristic is reddishness on the skin and increased swollen look of the breast.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is a local cancer of advanced form. It spreads faster to the other tissues from the point of birth and attacks the adjacent lymph nodes.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often mistaken with breast infection. Women are advised on all occasions to take immediate medical consultancy in case they notice any changes in the breast skin for any sort of redness or any other ailment.

The Causes of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

The reasons of occurrence of inflammatory breast cancer are however not much clear in medical science.

As per medical practitioners inflammatory breast cancer initiates with the presence of any cell abnormality in the duct of the breast. As the DNA of this abnormal cell goes through mutation, it multiplies fast. The group of abnormal cells gains an access to the lymphatic vessels present in the breast skin and chokes it. Due to such congestion, the skin gets dimpled, swollen and turn reddish. These are the major hints of inflammatory breast cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

The signs and symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer are:

  • Fast change in the appearance of the breast within just few weeks.
  • Enlarged breast with abnormal thickness.
  • Breasts turn reddish, pink, purple or even have a bruised appearance.
  • The breast feels warm.
  • Wrinkles or moraines on the breast skin as it appears in an orange peel.
  • Aching in the breast.
  • Lymph nodes to turn big below the arm or collarbone and over the collarbone in some cases.
  • Inward turning or flattening of the nipple.

Inflammatory breast cancer however does not usually form up to create a lump unlike with other forms of breast cancer.

Risk Factors for Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Factors of risk involved in inflammatory breast cancer are:

  • Women have bigger possibilities of getting affected with inflammatory breast cancer and it is rare in men.
  • Women of black complexion are more likely to be affected with inflammatory breast cancer.
  • Increase of age is also a factor for women to get affected with inflammatory breast cancer.
  • Last but not the least, obesity is also a factor of risk here.

Tests to Diagnose Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Diagnosis of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

The tests conducted for inflammatory breast cancer are:

  • Physical exam: Doctors diagnose the breast to detect the enhancement, redness and tenderness.
  • Imaging tests: Doctors prescribe an X-ray called mammogram of the affected breast. It is the ultrasound of the breast to detect signs of cancer in the breast. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is also suggested under particular medical conditions.
  • Sample testing of breast tissue: A biopsy test is undergone by removing a small part of the tissue and testing it in the laboratory. A biopsy of the skin may be recommended along with the breast tissue in case the doctor suspects inflammatory breast cancer.

Stages of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Doctors diagnose the stages of inflammatory breast cancer in a person. Thus the staging is ascertained.

Additional CT Scan or Positron Emission Tomography or PET scan or even a bone scan could be carried out by the doctor to determine the stage of the cancer in the body.

Below are the stages for the inflammatory breast cancer:

  • Inflammatory breast cancer is in Stage III when it is advanced locally. It spreads to the adjacent cells and tissues of the breast.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer in stage IV spreads faster to the adjacent parts of the body.

Treatment Options for Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is medically treated by chemotherapy first. Next is surgery & therapy using radiation. Certain other treatments are also carried out if the cells respond positively to the treatment.

Chemotherapy to Treat Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Chemotherapy is the procedure where chemicals are used to kill the cancer affected cells. Chemotherapy drugs are intravenously and are passed through the veins. It is also available in tablet form.

Chemotherapy is carried out before the patient is referred to a surgery. This neoadjuvant therapy during the pre-surgical period is a way to arrest the cancer to spread to other cells and destroy the cancer affected cells. Thus the chances of successful surgery are more in this case with effective chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is also done to patients after surgery to arrest the cancer to grow any further.

Surgery for Inflammatory Breast Cancer

After the procedure of chemotherapy the patient is usually referred to a surgery to remove the mastectomy or the cancer affected breast. A radical mastectomy is suggested to most women affected with inflammatory breast cancer. The lymph node blockage is thus removed along with the breast.

Radiation Therapy to Treat Inflammatory Breast Cancer

High voltage x ray energy beams are directed to the breasts in this procedure to kill the cancer cells causing inflammatory breast cancer. It is mostly recommended after chemotherapy & surgery in the remaining portion of the cancer affected breast.

Hormone Therapy to Treat Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Doctors prescribe the hormone therapy to patients who are responding or sensitive towards hormones. Hormone therapy treatments for inflammatory breast cancer include the following:

  • It is a medical procedure to prohibit the body hormones to get attached to the cancer cells in any ways. Tamoxifen is the drug popularly used for this treatment, also known as the selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM). SERM actively prevents the estrogen in the body from bonding itself to the estrogen receptors and arrests the growth of tumor. It is also effective in killing the cancer affected cells. The drug is recommended in both pre and also the postmenopausal women.
  • Aromatase inhibitors medication is also effective in preventing the production of estrogen in the body after menopause. It stops certain enzymes in the body which converts androgens in to estrogen in human body. The drug is only effective on case of postmenopausal women.

Targeted Therapy for Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Targeted therapy is noticed to kill cancer cells as it by focuses on the particular vulnerabilities of the cancer cells.

Trastuzumab (Herceptin) and pertuzumab (Perjeta) are the best treatment options in some particular genetic mutations of cancer affected cells in inflammatory breast cancer. These drugs block the HER2 (Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2) protein and reduce the growth of cancer cells.

Coping with Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer spreads faster. It suggests an early treatment as soon as the disease is diagnosed. Certain points are however suggested to cope up with inflammatory breast cancer. These are:

  • Acquiring more knowledge about the disease is the foremost step. Talk to your doctor more about the stage you possibly are in and what are the consequences to it. Informative journals on the subject from the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute could be used to gather more knowledge on this.
  • Seek the support of your family and friends during this battle. It is the most important help anyone can render you at this point of time. Talking to people who have been through this before could be encouraging or may be reading about the cancer fighters and survivors.
  • Connecting with a cancer survivor can fill you up with courage to fight this battle. Remember that there are a lot of other people who are fighting the same disease. Cancer survivors often run community groups to provide practical advises on things to be done during this phase. You can also checkout the forums boards maintained by members such as the Breast and American Cancer Society.

Prevention of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Regular physical exercise is important in order to avoid chances of breast cancer. It helps reducing the extra fat of the body which leads to the reduction of estrogen in the body. Estrogen is the hormone which promotes cancer in human body. A minimum of 45 to 60 minutes of physical activity is prescribed by the American Cancer Society for a minimum of 5 days in a week to stay away from cancer.

Factors Related to Diet

There is hardly any relation between the causes of breast cancer and the daily diet. However it is good to intake a balanced diet instead of a cancer fighting diet for a better result. The dietary guidelines to avoid chances of cancer as per the American Cancer Society are:

  • Healthy nutritional diet.
  • Minimum 5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables in a day.
  • Whole grain intake instead of refined products of grain.
  • Limited intake of red meat and other processed food.
  • Avoidance of alcohol in women as it is more harmful in them than men.

American Cancer Society suggests diets for cancer survivors with a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. The diet should be low in content of saturated fat I.e., meat or dairy products which are high in fat levels. Soy foods and alcohol should also be controlled largely and if possible abandoned forever.

  • Fruits and Vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants which protects from the damage of tissues caused due to high risk of cancer. These antioxidants include vitamin C, E, and carotenoids like beta-carotene and lycopene. Colored vegetables supply immense amount of such antioxidants. These foods contain high level of fiber and are successful in reducing chances of breast cancer or relapse after a recovery.
  • Calcium and Vitamin D. Milk and milk products contains high content of Calcium and Vitamin D which reduces the chances of breast cancer for premenopausal women, of course the non fatty ones are more beneficial.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer Survival Rate

The prognosis of an individual is often used by doctors to discern the survival rate of a person. Some cancer patients may not want to know their survival statistics and some finds it necessary for those who are having the same situation.

Those patients who have succumbed to cancer only ‘median survival’ is the length of time that is achieved. In essence the number of individuals who are alive is by half. Researchers use the median phenomenon to gauge. Many people outlast the median target. Other things can claim the lives of people who are suffering from inflammatory breast cancer which are never taken into consideration.

The rate of survival for inflammatory breast cancer is based on the duration of diagnosis.

Favorable outlook will encourage by improved treatment for inflammatory breast cancer patients.

The data for the information that is outlined will mainly be based on the data from people who have has previously been diagnosed with breast cancer. It is however unpredictable on how the next person will react at to the disease. Treatment that was administered, age, how the cancer is responding to medication and general health will determine the outcome. How your doctor is familiar with your situation will determine the application of the following numbers.

It will only be determined by the how time span on how the cancer has spread when it is found and the growth rate of Inflammatory Breast Cancer. This type of cancer has high chances of recurrence than any other known types of breast cancers. Unlike other breast cancers, the prognosis (outlook) of inflammatory breast cancer is not good.

Stage Median: Survival:

Stage III 57 months

Stage IV 21 months

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 30, 2021

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