What is inflammatory breast cancer (IBC)?

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Inflammatory carcinoma is an aggressive type of breast cancer. It accounts for 1-3% of all breast cancer cases. The skin over the breast appears acutely inflamed and swollen because skin lymph vessels are blocked by cancer.
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare but aggressive type of breast cancer in which the cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. This type of breast cancer is called “inflammatory” because the breast often looks swollen and red. It is estimated that 1% to 4% of breast cancer cases are IBC.

IBC affects the lymphatic system of the skin of the breast, so it does not present as a traditional lump. It tends to be diagnosed in younger women, and it occurs more frequently and at a younger age in African Americans. Like other types of breast cancer, IBC can occur in men, but usually at an older age than in women.

Making the right diagnosis is a critical component of successful IBC treatment.
Inflammatory breast cancer, or IBC, is rare, accounting for 1–3% of all breast cancers. This type of cancer is distinct from other types, with major differences in symptoms, prognosis and treatment.

IBC is a unique type of breast cancer that occurs when cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin. As a result, the breast can become firm, tender, itchy, red and warm due to increased blood flow and a build-up of white blood cells. The term “inflammatory” refers only to the appearance of the breasts. When breasts become inflamed due to an infection or injury, they often become tender, swollen, red and itchy. However, the underlying cause of IBC is unrelated to inflammation.

Because of the similar symptoms, inflammatory breast cancer may at first be diagnosed as a breast infection, such as mastitis. However, although antibiotics will resolve a breast infection, they cannot treat IBC. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics and your symptoms do not resolve within 7–10 days, this may be a sign that you have IBC.

IBC tends to grow quickly and aggressively, and is usually diagnosed when it is already in an advanced stage, typically stage IIIB or stage 4.

Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare but very aggressive type of breast cancer in which the cancer cells block the lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. This type of breast cancer is called "inflammatory" because the breast often looks swollen and red, or "inflamed." IBC accounts for 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancer cases in the United States. It tends to be diagnosed in younger women compared to non-IBC breast cancer. It occurs more frequently and at a younger age in African Americans than in Whites. Like other types of breast cancer, IBC can occur in men, but usually at an older age than in women. Some studies have shown an association between family history of breast cancer and IBC, but more studies are needed to draw firm conclusions.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.