December 1, 2023 8:12 AM

What Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Inflammatory Breast Cancer is a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer that occurs when malignant cells block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. According to Dr Kundan Singh Chufal who is a Senior Consultant & Unit Head, Radiation Oncology at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute (RGCI), IBC’s main characteristics include redness, swelling, and a warm feeling in the breast, often without a distinct lump. Early and accurate diagnosis is crucial due to its aggressive nature, and it often necessitates a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy for treatment.

In this article, ABP Live  sought the opinion of experts who expalined the casue,symptoms and treatment of inflammatory breast cancer. But, before that let us know in details, what is inflammatory breast cancer all about?

What Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

Dr. Aditi Chaturvedi, who is a Senior Consultant, Cancer Care / Oncology, and Surgical Oncology, Breast Cancer at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket said, “Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare type of breast cancer which constitutes only 2-4 % of all breast cancer cases but it is a very aggressive type which has poorer outcomes. The characteristic feature is that it presents as redness, swelling of the breast involving more than one-third of the breast that means almost the entire breast becomes red and swollen. Sometimes there might be no underlying mass.”

“There is a short history of less than six months of these symptoms. And on needle testing, a diagnosis of breast cancer is made. So the catch here is that inflammatory breast cancer can often be mistaken for mastitis that is infection of the breast, because redness, swelling of breasts are common presentation features of breast infections. But in case anyone has these symptoms, and it’s not responding to a week or two of antibiotics, then they should visit a specialist so that a diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer is not missed,” she added.

What Is The Cause Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

Dr. Aditi Chaturvedi said that it is a type of breast cancer in which the cancer cells plug the lymphatic vessels, so these thin pipes which run in the breast skin, they get plugged or blocked by cancer cells. Because of this blockage, the breast becomes red and swollen and sometimes slightly tender. 

What Are The Risk factors Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

Talking about the risk factors, Dr. Aditi Chaturvedi said the following:

  • Inflammatory breast cancer is more common in younger women in their 40s and early 50s.
  • It is more common in case a woman is overweight or obese, so a higher BMI or higher body mass index is a risk factor.
  • History of smoking is a risk factor.
  • There is some data to say that chronic inflammation in the body can increase the risk of developing inflammatory breast cancer.
  • Then other reproductive factors such as age of first pregnancy and breastfeeding may also have a role to play.

Characteristics Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer:

 Dr Pankaj Goyal, who is a Consultant – Medical Oncology at Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute (RGCI) mentioned some key characteristics and features of inflammatory breast cancer:

  • Rapid Onset: IBC often develops quickly, and symptoms can appear within a matter of weeks or even days.

  • Redness and Swelling: One of the hallmark signs of IBC is redness and swelling of the breast. This redness is often described as a “warmth” or “flushed” appearance.

  • Skin Changes: The skin of the breast affected by IBC may appear pitted, ridged, or dimpled, similar to the texture of an orange peel. This is referred to as “peau d’orange.”

  • Breast Size Increase: The affected breast may become larger, firmer, and more tender compared to the other breast.

  • Breast Pain: Patients with IBC often experience breast pain or discomfort.

  • Inverted Nipple: Sometimes, the nipple may become inverted or retracted.

  • No Distinct Lump: Unlike other types of breast cancer, IBC typically does not form a palpable lump or mass that can be felt during a breast self-exam or by a healthcare provider.

Symptoms And Treatment Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer:

Dr. Deepak Jha who is a Chief – Breast Surgery & Sr. Consultant: Surgical Oncology, at Artemis Hospitals, Gurugram said, “Apart from the visible changes in the breast, IBC can cause other symptoms like breast tenderness, pain, itching, and the appearance of ridges or dimples on the skin. The breast may also feel heavier or larger.”

Talking about the treatment, he added, “Given its aggressiveness, treatment for IBC usually involves a multimodal approach. This generally includes chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, followed by surgery (like a mastectomy), and radiation therapy. Hormone therapy or targeted therapy may also be part of the treatment plan.”

Talking about the other treatment options, Raj Vardhan, who is an OSD Chairman at Noida International Institute of Medical Sciences & Hospital, Noida International University, said the following:

  • Chemotherapy: Most IBC cases start with chemotherapy to shrink the tumour and make it more amenable to surgical removal.
  • Surgery: After chemotherapy, surgery is often recommended to remove the affected breast tissue, lymph nodes, and any remaining cancer cells.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy may be used after surgery to eliminate any remaining cancer cells and reduce the risk of recurrence.
  • Hormone Therapy or Targeted Therapy: Depending on the specific characteristics of the cancer, hormone therapy or targeted therapy may be part of the treatment plan.
  • Clinical Trials: Participation in clinical trials is an option for some IBC patients, offering access to experimental treatments and therapies.

 [Disclaimer: The information provided in the article, including treatment suggestions shared by doctors, is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.]

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