According to the National
Cancer Institute, inflammatory breast cancer, or IBC, is an uncommon type of breast cancer in which cancer cells block
the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. This blockage causes the breast to become red, swollen, and warm. The skin of the
breast may have ridges or appear pitted, like the skin of an orange (called peau d'orange). This type of breast cancer may
also cause a discharge from the nipple, and the nipple may be pulled back. Another possible sign of inflammatory breast cancer
is the presence of swollen lymph nodes under the arm or above he collarbone. Often, a tumor cannot be felt, even though one
may appear on a mammogram. A biopsy is done to confirm the diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer.
Inflammatory breast cancer generally grows rapidly, and the cancer cells often spread to other parts
of the body. Treatment for inflammatory breast cancer usually involves local treatment to remove or destroy the cancer in
the breast and systemic treatment to stop the disease from spreading to other parts of the body. Local treatment affects
only cells in the tumor and the area close to it; systemic treatment affects cells throughout the body. The local treatment
may be surgery and/or radiation therapy to the breast and underarm. The systemic treatment may be chemotherapy (anticancer
drugs), hormonal therapy (drugs that interfere with the effects of the female hormone estrogen), or both. Systemic treatment
is generally given before the surgery and/or radiation therapy.
Researchers are studying the effectiveness of high-dose chemotherapy with bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplantation (replacing blood-forming cells destroyed by treatment) in improving the outcome of patients with inflammatory
breast cancer. They are also studying biological therapy (stimulating the immune system to fight the cancer), new chemotherapy and hormonal drugs, and new combinations of chemotherapy and hormonal drugs. Information about ongoing clinical trials (research
studies) is available from the Cancer Information Service (see below), or from the clinical trials page of the National Cancer Institutes Cancer.gov web site at http://cancer.gov/clinical
trials on the Internet.