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Inflammatory Breast Cancer - IBC


I found this great article on MD Andersons website. 

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer. Instead of forming a lump, the disease causes the affected breast to become swollen, red and tender, often in a matter of days or weeks.

These symptoms are not caused by inflammation. Instead, they are caused by cancer cells blocking lymph vessels in the skin and soft tissue. Lymph is a clear fluid that contains tissue waste and cells that help fight infection. It travels through the body in vessels that are similar to veins. When these vessels are blocked by cancer cells, lymph builds up in the breast, causing it to swell.

Like more common forms of breast cancer, IBC can be divided into three molecular subtypes that can fuel the cancer's growth and spread: HER2-positive, hormone receptor positive, and triple-negative. Compared to non-inflammatory breast cancer, IBC is more often HER2-positive or triple-negative. These subtypes impact a patient’s treatment and prognosis.  Learn more about these molecular subtypes on our main breast cancer site.

IBC is an aggressive disease, with a historically reported five-year survival rate around 40%. Advances in care are helping more patients live longer, though. Recent studies have shown that with the right treatment IBC's five-year survival rate is closer to 70% for stage III patients, and up to 50% for newly diagnosed stage IV patients. 

Inflammatory breast cancer risk factors

A risk factor is anything that increases the chances of developing a specific disease.

The risk factors for inflammatory breast cancer are the same for other breast cancers. These include:

  • Age: As women age, their breast cancer risk increases. Most breast cancers are diagnosed after age 50. On average, IBC is diagnosed about 5 years younger than non-IBC, at an average age of 51 years old.
  • Inherited genetic mutations: Specific gene mutations increase the risk of developing cancer. These include BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. Normal BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes repair damaged DNA. When these genes are mutated in certain ways, they fail at DNA repair, which could lead to breast and/or ovarian cancer. Other mutations that can lead to breast cancer are to PALB2, another DNA repair gene; CHEK2, a tumor suppressor gene; and PTEN, which controls how quickly cells multiply. At this time, there are no mutations associated specifically with IBC. The disease has similar rates of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations as non-IBC breast cancers. Research into the role genetics may play in IBC is ongoing.  Learn more about hereditary cancer syndromes.
  • Family history: A woman’s odds of developing breast cancer are higher if a parent, sibling or child has had the disease.
  • Early menstruation: Women who began menstruating before age 12 have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
  • No full-term pregancies or pregnancy before 30: Women who have no full-term pregnancies or their first pregnancy after age 30 are at a higher risk of breast cancer.
  • Previous breast cancer diagnosis: A woman who has had breast cancer once has a higher risk of developing a second cancer.
  • Previous radiation therapy: People who had radiation therapy to the chest in childhood or early adulthood to treat another cancer are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. The benefits of these earlier radiation treatments far outweigh the risks, however.
  • Obesity: Obesity, particularly after menopause, increases a woman’s breast cancer risk.
  • Dense breast tissue: Based on its appearance in a mammogram, dense breast tissue is a known risk factor for breast cancer.

Learn more about inflammatory breast cancer:

Some cases of inflammatory breast cancer can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you. Learn more about the risk to you and your family on our genetic counseling page.

For more information please go to the MD Anderson page. They have a ton of information about clinical trials and other extremely helpful resources.