How Do They Test For Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

Inflammatory breast cancer is a very rare type of cancer. It is a very fast growing cancer and makes the bread sore, tender, red and swollen. As it grows fast, it is usually diagnosed only at the later stages of disease progression.

How Do They Test For Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

To diagnose the inflammatory breast cancer, they usually use the following tests and procedures-

Thorough Physical Examination

  • The physician carries out a complete physical examination and marks for the signs like redness of the breast, swelling and tenderness
  • The affected breast feels warm to touch and there is an orange- peel appearance to the skin


  • If there is a suspicion of inflammatory breast cancer, the physician may ask you to undergo a biopsy test
  • In a biopsy, they take out a sample of the tissue of the affected breast and perform a microscopical examination of the tissue to confirm the diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer
  • Inflammatory breast cancer does not emerge as a lump but starts with skin changes, hence
  • it is recommended to carry out a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis
  • inflammatory breast cancer develops in layers
  • while doing a biopsy for this condition, an expert uses a kind of a circular tool to take out a section of the affected skin and layers beneath it as well, the wound is then closed by stitching
  • if a distinct lesion is visible, an ultrasound guided needle biopsy will be performed
  • with the help of this guided ultrasound, the physician inserts the needle into the breast to take the samples of the suspected area.

Imaging Procedures

when biopsies indicate there is an inflammatory breast cancer, a physician will then recommend certain imaging procedures to see the extent of the progress of the disease
imaging tests will be used to see whether the condition has affected the nearby lymph nodes and any other organs
this is needed to establish the stage of the disease

this will also be helpful in detecting whether the other breast is also involved

the imaging procedures used for this are – breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), chest x-ray, computerized tomography or ct scan, bone scan, liver function tests etc.
pet scan is an option that is studied for its usefulness in the staging of inflammatory breast cancer. In this method, a radioactive substance is injected in the body. As the cancer cells absorb this substance, it will start highlighting the presence of the cancer cells throughout the body

Stages Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

The staging process of the inflammatory breast cancer starts from stage IIIB. This is because the inflammatory breast cancer involves the skin, meaning it has already affected the skin.

Stage IIIB Inflammatory Breast Cancer

  • This indicates that the cancer has spread to the tissues near to the breast, including but not limited to the chest wall, skin, ribs and the chest muscles
  • The cancer may or may not have spread t the lymph nodes in the breast or under the arm

Stage IIIC Inflammatory Breast Cancer

  • This stage refers to cancer being spread to the lymph nodes under the collarbone area and near the neck region
  • the cancer may or may not have spread to the lymph nodes in the breasts, under the arm or nearby breast tissues

Stage IV Inflammatory Breast Cancer

  • This stage refers to the spread of cancer to other organs
  • These organs can include bone, liver, lungs, brain etc.
  • Lymph nodes in the neck region may also be affected

Inflammatory breast cancer is a very rare type of cancer. This cancer does not develop as a lump but starts in the skin, making the breast swollen, red, tender and warm to touch. The breast may get an orange-peel appearance and there sometimes might be itching as well. It is a very rapidly growing form of cancer and hence, is usually diagnosed when the disease has already progressed to a later stage.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 28, 2018

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