Disease: Inflammatory breast cancer


    Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare type of breast cancer that develops rapidly, making the affected breast red, swollen and tender.

    Inflammatory breast cancer occurs when cancer cells block the lymphatic vessels in skin covering the breast, causing the characteristic red, swollen appearance of the breast.

    Inflammatory breast cancer is considered a locally advanced cancer — meaning it has spread from its point of origin to nearby tissue and possibly to nearby lymph nodes.

    Inflammatory breast cancer can easily be confused with a breast infection, which is a much more common cause of breast redness and swelling. Seek medical attention promptly if you notice skin changes on your breast.

    Inflammatory breast cancer care at Mayo Clinic

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    Signs and symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:

    • Rapid change in the appearance of one breast, over the course of several weeks
    • Thickness, heaviness or visible enlargement of one breast
    • Discoloration, giving the breast a red, purple, pink or bruised appearance
    • Unusual warmth of the affected breast
    • Dimpling or ridges on the skin of the affected breast, similar to an orange peel
    • Tenderness, pain or aching
    • Enlarged lymph nodes under the arm, above the collarbone or below the collarbone
    • Flattening or turning inward of the nipple

    Inflammatory breast cancer doesn't commonly form a lump, as occurs with other forms of breast cancer.

    When to see a doctor

    Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any signs or symptoms that worry you.

    Other more common conditions have signs and symptoms resembling those of inflammatory breast cancer. A breast injury or breast infection (mastitis) may cause redness, swelling and pain.

    Inflammatory breast cancer can be easily confused with a breast infection, which is much more common. It's reasonable and common to be initially treated with antibiotics for a week or more. If your symptoms respond to antibiotics, then additional testing isn't necessary. But if the redness does not improve, then your doctor may consider more serious causes of your symptoms, such as inflammatory breast cancer.

    If you've been treated for a breast infection but your signs and symptoms persist, contact your doctor. Your doctor may recommend a mammogram or other test to evaluate your signs and symptoms. The only way to determine if your symptoms are caused by inflammatory breast cancer is to do a biopsy to remove a sample of tissue for testing.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    It's not clear what causes inflammatory breast cancer.

    Doctors know that inflammatory breast cancer begins with an abnormal cell in one of the breast's ducts. Mutations within the abnormal cell's DNA instruct it to grow and divide rapidly. The accumulating abnormal cells infiltrate and clog the lymphatic vessels in the skin of your breast. The blockage in the lymphatic vessels causes red, swollen and dimpled skin — a classic sign of inflammatory breast cancer.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    Diagnosing inflammatory breast cancer

    Tests and procedures used to diagnose inflammatory breast cancer include:

    • A physical exam. Your doctor examines your breast to look for redness and other signs of inflammatory breast cancer.
    • Imaging tests. Your doctor may recommend a breast X-ray (mammogram) or a breast ultrasound to look for signs of cancer in your breast, such as thickened skin. Additional imaging tests, such as MRI, may be recommended in certain situations.
    • Removing a sample of tissue for testing. A biopsy is a procedure to remove a small sample of suspicious breast tissue for testing. The tissue is analyzed in a laboratory to look for signs of cancer. A skin biopsy may also be helpful, and this can be done at the same time as a breast biopsy.

    Determining the extent of the cancer

    Additional tests may be necessary to determine whether your cancer has spread to your lymph nodes or to other areas of your body.

    Tests may include a CT scan, positron emission tomography (PET) scan and bone scan. Not everyone needs every test, so your doctor will select the most appropriate tests based on your particular situation.

    Your doctor uses information from these tests to assign your cancer a stage. Your cancer's stage is indicated in Roman numerals. Stages of inflammatory breast cancer range from III to IV, with the higher stage indicating that cancer has spread to other areas of the body.

    The cancer staging system continues to evolve and is becoming more complex as doctors improve cancer diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor uses your cancer stage to select the treatments that are right for you.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

    Coping and support

    Inflammatory breast cancer progresses rapidly. Sometimes this means you may need to start treatment before you've had time to think everything through. This can feel overwhelming. To cope, try to:

    • Learn enough about inflammatory breast cancer to make treatment decisions. Ask your doctor for the facts about your cancer and treatment. Ask what stage your cancer is and what treatment options you have. Also ask your doctor about good sources of information where you can learn more. Examples of organizations for reliable cancer information include the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.
    • Seek support. It might comfort you to talk about your feelings as you begin cancer treatment. You might have a close friend or family member who is a good listener. Or ask your doctor to refer you to a counselor who works with cancer survivors.
    • Connect with other cancer survivors. Other people with cancer can provide a unique source of support. Cancer survivors can offer practical advice on what to expect and how to cope during your treatment. Ask your doctor about support groups in your community. Or try the online message boards run by organizations such as the American Cancer Society or BreastCancer.org.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

    Risk factors

    Factors that increase the risk of inflammatory breast cancer include:

    • Being a woman. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer than are men — but men can develop inflammatory breast cancer, too.
    • Being black. Black women have a higher risk of inflammatory breast cancer than do white women.
    • Being obese. People who are obese have a greater risk of inflammatory breast cancer compared with those of normal weight.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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