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Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment

Jan 18, 2024

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Causes Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Symptoms Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Risk Factors Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer 

Diagnosis Of  Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Treatment Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer



Radiation therapy

Targeted Therapy

Hormone Replacement Therapy


Inflammatory Breast Cancer Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare type of disease that spreads swiftly and leaves the affected breast red, swollen, and sensitive.

Inflammatory breast cancer develops when cancer cells impede the lymphatic veins in the skin around the breast, giving the breast its characteristic red, swollen appearance.

Inflammatory breast cancer is categorized as a locally advanced malignancy since it shows signs of spreading from the initial location to nearby tissue and possibly even lymph nodes.

Breast infections, sometimes mistaken for inflammatory breast cancer, are a common cause of breast redness and swelling. As soon as you see any changes in the skin on your breast, get medical help.

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Causes Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

It is uncertain what causes inflammatory breast cancer.

Medical professionals are aware that the initial indicator of inflammatory breast cancer is a change in a breast cell's DNA. Usually, the cell is located in one of the tubes or ducts that carry breast milk to the nipple. But the malignancy could potentially originate from a cell in the glandular tissue (lobules) where breast milk is produced.

A cell's DNA contains instructions that tell it what to do. The breast cell is instructed to divide and multiply rapidly by the altered DNA. The abnormal cells start to build up and block the breast skin's lymphatic capillaries. Red, swollen, and dimpled skin is a classic sign of inflammatory breast cancer and is brought on by by a blockage in the lymphatic veins.

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Symptoms Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammation-related breast cancer is not as common as other types of the disease to present as a lump. Alternatively, the warning signs and symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include:

  • One breast undergoes a marked and rapid change in appearance over a few weeks.
  • The weight, thickness, or noticeable enlargement of one breast
  • Discoloration that gives the affected breast a bruised, red, purple, or pink appearance that is extremely heated
  • The afflicted breast's skin displays orange-peel-like ridges or dimpling.
  • Larger lymph nodes under the arm, over the collarbone, or below it that pain, are sore, or curve inward at the nape

For inflammatory breast cancer to be diagnosed, these symptoms must exist for no more than six months.

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Risk Factors Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer 

The likelihood of developing inflammatory breast cancer is increased by the following factors:

  • Being a woman: Though women are diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer more often than men, men can still develop inflammatory breast cancer.
  • Becoming younger: Inflammatory breast cancer is more common in those in their 40s and 50s.
  • Being of African American descent: Black women have a higher risk of developing inflammatory breast cancer in comparison to White women.
  • Have a weight issue: Obese people have a higher risk of developing inflammatory breast cancer compared to those of normal weight.

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Diagnosis Of  Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer is identified using the tests and techniques listed below:

  • An assessment by a physician: Other telltale signs of inflammatory breast cancer, such as redness, are looked for by your doctor during her examination.
  • Exams using imaging: Your doctor may recommend a breast ultrasound or X-ray to check for signs of breast cancer, such as thicker skin. More imaging examinations, such as MRI, may be recommended in specific circumstances.
  • Removing a sample of tissue to be studied: The process of taking a small sample of suspicious-looking breast tissue for testing purposes is known as a biopsy. A pathologist looks for signs of cancer in the tissue. Also possible and maybe helpful is a skin biopsy, which can be done in parallel.

Further tests may be necessary to determine whether your cancer has spread to your lymph nodes or other places in your body.

  • Tests that could be performed include a CT scan, PET scan, and bone scan: Since not everyone needs every test, your doctor will select the ones that are best for you based on your unique situation.
  • Based on the findings of these tests, your doctor will establish the stage of your cancer: This uses Roman numerals to show you the stage of your cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer often progresses in stages from III to IV, with the higher stage indicating that the disease's fast growth has caused it to spread to other body areas.
  • The process of staging cancer is always evolving and becoming more complex as medical experts make progress in its identification and treatment. Depending on the stage of your cancer, your doctor will determine the best course of treatment for you.

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Treatment Of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

The primary line of treatment for inflammatory breast cancer is chemotherapy. If the cancer has not spread to other areas of the body, radiation therapy and surgery are the next best courses of action. If the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, your doctor may recommend additional pharmaceutical therapies in addition to chemotherapy to stop its growth.


Chemotherapy employs drugs to destroy quickly growing cells, such as cancer cells. You may get chemotherapy drugs orally, intravenously, or intravenously.

Chemotherapy is used before surgery in the treatment of inflammatory breast cancer. Neoadjuvant therapy is a preoperative intervention designed to minimize the tumor's size before surgery and increase the chances of a favorable result.

If there is a significant chance that your cancer will return or spread to another part of your body after the previous treatments are completed, your doctor may recommend further chemotherapy. By doing this, you can lessen the chance that the disease will spread to other body parts.


The affected breast and a few nearby lymph nodes can require surgical removal after treatment. Usually, the process comprises:

  • A mastectomy is a breast-excision operation: During a total mastectomy, the entire breast including the lobules, ducts, fatty tissue, and some skin is removed. This includes the nipple and areola.
  • Surgery to remove the adjacent lymph nodes: There will be a removal of the lymph nodes adjacent to the affected breast and under the arm. Talk to your doctor about the options you have for breast reconstruction. Surgery for reconstruction is often delayed until after the completion of breast cancer treatment.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses powerful energy beams, like protons or X-rays, to kill cancer cells. Typically, a large machine that shoots energy beams in your direction is used to give radiation therapy (external beam radiation).

Radiation therapy is used to kill any cancer cells that may remain in inflammatory breast cancer after surgery. The areas that are exposed to radiation are your chest, armpit, and shoulder.

Targeted Therapy

Drugs that target specific abnormalities in cancer cells are used in treatment. One example of a targeted therapy drug is HER2, which targets human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, a protein overexpressed in some breast cancer cells. The protein helps breast cancer cells proliferate and endure. By selectively targeting cells that overproduce HER2, the drugs damage cancer cells while sparing healthy cells.

If your inflammatory breast cancer cells test positive for HER2, your doctor might recommend adding targeted therapy to your initial chemotherapy treatment. After surgery, hormone therapy may be used with targeted therapy.

Cancer treatments that have spread to other parts of the body include medications known as targeted therapies, which focus on certain abnormalities present in cancer cells. Your cancer cells may be assessed to see if targeted therapy is a good fit for you.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Treatment for breast cancers that need hormones to proliferate is hormone therapy, sometimes referred to as hormone-blocking therapy. Professionals in the medical field refer to these cancers as estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) and progesterone receptor positive (PR positive) tumors.

Hormone therapy is one way to lessen the chance that your cancer will return after surgery or other treatments. If the cancer has spread, hormone therapy may help control and lessen its progress.

Treatments using hormone therapy include the following:

  • Drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators that stop hormones from attaching to cancer cells
  • Drugs referred to as aromatase inhibitors that stop the body from making estrogen following menopause
  • Medication or surgery are ways to prevent the ovaries from releasing hormones.


Immunotherapy strengthens your immune system to combat cancer. Because cancer cells produce proteins that help them elude immune system cells, your immune system, which fights disease, might not be able to fight your cancer. The way immunotherapy works is by impeding that process.

Immunotherapy may be an option for you if your cancer is triple negative, meaning that its cells do not have HER2, progesterone, or estrogen receptors, and it has spread to other areas of your body. 

Also Read: Bladder Exstrophy: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

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