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Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare type of breast cancer that causes the breast to become swollen, warm, and discolored. Inflammatory breast cancer develops when cancerous cells obstruct the lymph cells of the breast tissue. This type of cancer typically grows quickly and can spread to other parts of the body.

Signs And Symptoms of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer develop rapidly. The difficult thing about these symptoms is that they are quite similar to the symptoms of non-cancerous conditions. When any woman develops the signs and symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer, she should consult with her doctor as soon as possible. Symptoms can include:

  • A drastic unexplained increase in breast size - sometimes an entire cup size in a few days
  • Pink, red, or dark colored breast tissue
  • Orange peel textured skin changes
  • Ridges or thickened areas of the skin
  • Hardness or firmness
  • Changes in the appearance and feel of the nipple
  • Warmth in the breast area

Patients with inflammatory breast cancer often have swollen lymph nodes under the arm or above the collarbone. An important note is that while many people associate a breast lump with breast cancer, a mass is not always present in patients with inflammatory breast cancer.

Diagnosing Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer grows and spreads rapidly; therefore it is crucial to seek medical attention at the first sign of unusual symptoms. Ultrasound and mammography may not be sufficient to diagnose inflammatory breast cancer. In most cases, a biopsy of the breast tissues will be required to diagnose inflammatory breast cancer. Other diagnostic tests, such as CT scans, bone scans, and MUGA tests, can be used to diagnose and classify inflammatory breast cancer.

Treatment of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Treatment for inflammatory breast cancer often begins with chemotherapy and is generally followed by radiation treatment and/or surgery. A systemic approach to inflammatory breast cancer- involving chemotherapy (anti-cancer drugs) and hormonal treatment- is typically the first stage of treatment. Radiation and surgery are typically performed after systemic therapies have begun.

Most chemotherapy drugs are administered intravenously to patients with inflammatory breast cancer. Doctors often recommend that a patient receive a special device (medical port or central venous catheter) which is surgically implanted in a patient's arm or chest area. These can be very advantageous to a patient with inflammatory breast cancer.

Most inflammatory breast cancer patients undergo a mastectomy, which is the surgical removal of the breast. Some women will opt for the removal of the unaffected breast for preventative purposes. Mastectomy is a safe surgery with a low risk of complications.

Contact A Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Near You

After a mastectomy, it is also possible for a patient to have reconstructive breast surgery to allow a patient to regain a more natural appearance. If you would like to learn more about inflammatory breast cancer and how reconstructive surgery might benefit you, please contact us to speak with a qualified and experienced plastic surgeon near you.