A friend recently told me about Inflammatory Breast Cancer. It sounded terrible, is it something I should be concerned about?
Breast cancer of any kind should be of concern to women. It is the most common form of cancer in women followed by lung cancer. However, the chances of any one woman having Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) are slight. IBC is not common; it accounts for 1 percent to 3 percent of all breast cancers. In Missouri that means that about 50 to 150 women could develop IBC in any given year. Remember, men can also develop breast cancer. However, IBC in men is rare.
While IBC may not affect a large number of women it is still a disease that deserves some attention. In spite of its name, IBC is not caused by an infection. It occurs when the lymph vessels in the breast become blocked by breast cancer cells. This blockage may cause the breast to become red, swollen, and warm. IBC can be hard to detect. Often there is not a lump or tumor and IBC may not be found by a mammogram. Since it is uncommon it can be mistaken for an infection or other breast condition; antibiotics may be prescribed. If the condition does not clear up after a week of taking antibiotics, request a breast biopsy or referral to a breast specialist. IBC is considered an aggressive form of cancer. The best prevention is regular breast self-exams, seeing your health care provider immediately if any changes occur and requesting immediate follow-up if the symptoms do not clear up after initial treatment. More information about breast cancer and IBC is available from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.
Gail Carlson, MPH Ph.D., Continuing Medical Education, School of Medicine, University of Missouri-Columbia
Last update: Wednesday, November 26, 2008