A few weeks back, one of my lovely readers asked if I would write about inflammatory breast cancer because her sister had been diagnosed with it and wanted to spread a little awareness about this particular kind of breast cancer diagnosis. Her wish is my command. So, in today’s Breast Cancer: 101 lesson we’re talking about what inflammatory breast cancer is and why it’s probably the worst type of breast cancer to be diagnosed with.
When I was diagnosed, the doctor – reviewing my pathology report – said “thankfully, you have the good kind.” What did she mean by that? Well, first, I’m pretty sure it was said to calm the scared shitless patient sitting in front of her but also because doctors know how to treat the particular breast cancer I was diagnosed with. Inflammatory breast cancer is rare and very aggressive and the five-year survival rate hovers around 34% compared to 87% with other forms of breast cancer.
Inflammatory breast cancer is the most difficult type of breast cancer to diagnose because there is no lump. Most breast cancers form a tumor that can be felt or seen on a mammogram. Though IBC will have a primary tumor site, the cancerous cells usually grow in sheets or nests. Most often, when patients are diagnosed with IBC, the cancer is already a stage 3 – which means that it has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs.
How is Inflammatory Breast Cancer diagnosed?
Inflammatory Breast Cancer usually presents itself with the following symptoms:
edited: not all symptoms will occur at the same time.
- breast warmth
- redness of more than 1/3 of the breast
- thickening (edema/swelling) on the skin of the breast
- ridging of the breast skin (similar to an orange peel)
- the nipple is inverted occasionally
Swelling of the breast is commonly associated with a breast infection – especially in women breastfeeding. But since IBC can spread so rapidly, it’s always best to contact a doctor immediately.
Treatment for IBC is the usual trifecta: chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Most often, a radical mastectomy is the only surgical option because of the nature of the cancer.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer is frequently hormone receptor negative, which means that hormone therapies, such as tamoxifen, that interfere with the growth of cancer cells fueled by estrogen may not be effective against these tumors. It is possible the IBC can also be identified as a HER-2 positive cancer.
To learn more about Inflammatory Breast Cancer definitely visit Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Mayo Clinic. I also encourage you to visit the Susan Niebur’s website Toddler Planet where she wrote extensively about her experience with IBC. Susan passed away from the disease in early 2012.
That wraps today’s Breast Cancer: 101 lesson. Next time, we’ll talk cancer treatment and some of the less known side affects associated with them. In the meantime, do you have a question? You can ask me anything and if I can’t answer it, I’ll be certain to direct you to someone who can! Reach out in the comment section or you can always find me on Facebook too.
This information should not be used to substitute any professional medical advice. If you have questions or concerns about breast cancer, I urge you to visit your physician. Works cited: Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation and American Cancer Society.