What is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?
IBC is unique and uncommon and can be fast growing and dangerous. IBC represents 2-4% of all breast cancer cases in the United States, but due to its aggressive nature, it represents 10% of U.S. breast cancer deaths. Early and accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment by experts who specialize in IBC can greatly extend and save lives.
MD Anderson established the world's first inflammatory breast cancer clinic especially to treat women with IBC – both those who have been treated before and those who are newly diagnosed. The MD Anderson Morgan Welch IBC Clinic sees more cases of IBC each year, more than any other center in the world.
IBC grows rapidly and the changes can become noticeable within a short period of time (days to weeks). Unlike other types of breast cancer, patients with IBC do not develop a distinct mass or lump that can be felt within the breast. Instead, you may notice an area of skin thickness or swelling in one of your breasts. The absence of a lump or mass also makes IBC difficult to detect by mammograms or ultrasound. Inflammatory breast cancer cells penetrate the skin and lymph vessels of the breast. When the lymph vessels become blocked by the breast cancer cells, the breast usually becomes red, swollen, and warm. The skin changes associated with inflammatory breast cancer can cause the skin around the breast to appear like the skin of an orange, a condition called peau d’orange. The breast may appear similar to other common inflammatory conditions such as cellulitis or mastitis. Other symptoms you may experience include enlarged lymph nodes under the arm or above the collar bone on the affected side. Inflammatory breast cancer is diagnosed based upon the results of a biopsy and the clinical assessment of the treating physician.