Is inflammatory breast cancer different than other types of breast cancer?

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare but very aggressive type of breast cancer in which the cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast.

Unlike other breast cancers, there is rarely a distinct lump in the breast. This type of breast cancer is called “inflammatory” because the breast often looks swollen and red or “inflamed.” IBC usually develops quickly and is discovered in stage III or stage IV. It is also a type of cancer that is found more frequently in younger women.

This type of cancer is often hormone receptor negative, so treatments like tamoxifen are ineffective. However frequently IBC is HER2 positive so other medications like herceptin can be used in treatment in addition to chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

The symptoms of IBC may include redness; swelling; warmth in the breast; a nipple that is inverted of facing inward; the skin may have ridges or appear pitted, like the skin of an orange, or itching.

The skin of the breast may also appear pink, reddish purple or bruised. These symptoms usually develop quickly — over a period of weeks or months. Swollen lymph nodes may also be present under the arm, above the collarbone or in both places. If you have any of these symptoms, please consult with your doctor.

For more information contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge at (225) 927-2273, , or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.

ä Internet Resources:

Factsheet: Inflammatory Breast Cancer Questions and Answers

Inflammatory Breast Cancer – American Cancer Society

This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.