Inflammatory breast cancer is a special kind of advanced breast cancer and it’s a serious one. Though we see an increasing number of cases, it is rare, accounting for only 1 to 4 percent of all breast cancers. Overall survival is worse in women with this kind of breast cancer than in other forms of breast cancer. It is inflammatory because its initial manifestations are usually redness and warmth in the skin of the breast, often without a palpable lump. Oftentimes, the patient and even the doctor will mistake it for a simple infection and she’ll be put on antibiotics. But it doesn’t get better. It also doesn’t get worse and that’s the tip-off: an infection will always get better or worse within a week or two – it rarely stays the same. If no change seems to be evident, the doctor should perform a biopsy of the underlying tissue to see if it is cancer.
Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:Breast becomes red, purple, pink or bruised; Breast becomes firm and enlarged;A warm feeling in the breast; Itching of the breast; Pain; Skin texture similar to an orange peel;
The treatment usually starts with chemotherapy, systemic treatment, surgery and then radiation therapy, which are the local treatments; this is then followed by additional chemotherapy and then hormone treatments.
This form of cancer is not caused by an inflammation or infection. Inflammatory breast cancer happens when cancer cells clog the lymphatic vessels in the skin overlying the breast.
As with all advanced cancers, chemotherapy is started with three or four cycles of Adriamycin and Cytoxan with or without Taxol or Taxotere. After which local treatment can be done – usually in the form of mastectomy. After mastectomy, most women will receive four more cycles of chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy to the chest wall. Serious though it can be, inflammatory breast cancer is still an extremely variable disease.
These treatments have greatly improved the prognosis for a woman with inflammatory breast cancer. Recent studies have shown as much as a 50% survival rate after 5 years and a 35% survival rate after 10 years.