"The irony to all this is that I was doing self exams all along, but I was looking for lumps. I probably had IBC for a while and didn't even know it."
-Juliet Jones
What is IBC?
Quick Facts:
  • IBC is one of the most aggressive types of human breast cancer comprising 5-10 percent of all breast cancers.
  • IBC occurs at a younger age than non-inflammatory breast cancer, and has been diagnosed during pregnancy.
  • IBC is over 50% fatal within five years, and almost always fatal within ten years.
  • It has been estimated that approximately 20 percent of all deaths attributable to breast cancer are caused by IBC.
  • Because IBC occurs in relatively young women, when expressed in terms of years of life lost to this disease, it accounts for more than 30 percent of the total life-years lost to all breast cancer
Quick Links:
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 Institute’s Cancer.gov web site at http://cancer.gov/clinical trials on the Internet.



Richard and Juliet Jones