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Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)

What are the symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer?

Inflammatory breast cancer, also called IBC, is an aggressive and fast growing cancer. In the past, it commonly was misdiagnosed as mastitis or dermatitis because it can look like an infection of the breast or a rash on the skin of the breast. If you do have a rash or suspect an infection, promptly see your gynecologist or primary care physician.

Most of the time, the infection or rash clears after treatment with topical cream or oral antibiotics. If your rash or infection does not heal after one week of treatment, make an appointment with a breast specialist immediately.

How is inflammatory breast cancer diagnosed?

Same Day Results

We know how quickly patients want results from a biopsy or scan if there is a suspicion of breast cancer, so we follow strict guidelines for biopsies and pathology reports. Most of our patients will receive the probability of breast cancer immediately following their biopsy, and a pathology confirmation within 24 hours. A diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer is confirmed by obtaining tissue from the skin of the breast during a skin punch biopsy. If a patient has inflammatory breast cancer, the pathology report will indicate that breast cancer cells are present in the dermal lymphatics.

Learn more about the steps of diagnosis, including:

  • Digital mammography
  • Ultrasound
  • MRI
  • Staging workup
  • Skin punch biopsy
  • Pathology

What is the treatment for inflammatory breast cancer?

Inflammatory breast cancer is a fast and aggressive cancer that needs to be treated as such. A diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer is classified as stage III breast cancer. Treatment is as follows:

  • Neoadjuvant chemotherapy – This first line of treatment clears the breast and skin of the disease and to make the breast operable.
  • Mastectomy and chest wall radiation
  • Breast reconstruction – We do not recommend immediate reconstruction because of the high risk of local recurrence of inflammatory breast cancer. However, reconstructive surgery is an option at a later date, once risk of recurrence is assessed. (Autologous fat transfer is the preferred reconstructive method, as radiation can cause complications with implants.)
  • Hormonal therapy for estrogen receptor and/or progesterone receptor positive disease
  • Biologic targeted therapy such as trastuzumab for HER2 positive disease

The Breast Center is consistently focused on using cutting-edge techniques for the effective treatment of breast cancer. Research is a critical part of our program and we lead clinical trials for the investigation of new treatment methods.