May 23, 2013
Inflammatory breast cancer is a very aggressive form of the disease. Thankfully, it is a rare type and is marked by several symptoms. Becoming aware of inflammatory breast cancer symptoms is vital to survival especially since this malignancy can spread very quickly.
A Simple Definition
With the inflammatory type of breast cancer, cancer cells block the lymph vessels found in the breast so that it looks inflamed or red and swollen. In the United States, this type of breast cancer accounts for less than 6 per cent of diagnosed cases.
Usually, the carcinoma cells of this type of breast cancer are very invasive. Normally, they begin in the cells that line the milk ducts. Once they spread beyond the ducts, the cancer progresses so rapidly that in a matter of weeks or months the cancer can be diagnosed as stage III or IV.
Random Facts about the Inflammatory Type of Breast Cancer
The median age of diagnosis for the more common type of breast cancer is 62 years while the median age for the inflammatory type is 57 years. This means that it tends to be diagnosed in women of younger ages.
For some reason, it is more frequently diagnosed in African American women at younger ages with a median age of 54 compared to 58 years for white women. It is also more common in obese women than in women of normal weight.
The symptoms of breast cancer are extremely easy to detect when it is the inflammatory type. Generally, the affected breast becomes swollen and red or pink. This is often accompanied by a feeling of warmth and tenderness in the breast. In some cases, the affected breast will appear bruised instead of reddish.
When the blockage of the ducts becomes severe, the skin of the breast becomes pitted, much like the skin of an orange. This may or not be accompanied by a marked increase in breast size. Other symptoms include a feeling of heaviness, burning, or tenderness in the breast. Lymph nodes may become palpable under the arm and near the collarbone.
New treatments are constantly being tested as interventions for inflammatory breast cancer. Persons who have been diagnosed to have it are often encouraged to participate in clinical trials that test these treatments.
The usual protocol for treating the inflammatory type of breast cancer consists of a multimodal approach, which has been seen to produce better responses from patients; it has also improved survival rates. The first step in this approach is systemic chemotherapy in order to shrink the tumor. After this, surgery is done to remove the tumor followed by radiation therapy.
Surgery may take the form of modified radical mastectomy, which means removing the entire affected breast, the lymph nodes under the adjacent arm and quite often, the lining over the underlying chest muscles. While the chest muscles are preserved, the smaller chest muscles may also be removed.
Other therapies include targeted therapy using drugs such as trastuzumab for certain types of tumors and hormone therapy for cancers that depend on estrogen for growth. Sometimes postoperative patients are given adjuvant therapy, which includes additional chemotherapy, antihormonal therapy, targeted therapy (such as trastuzumab) or some combination of these treatments.
There is a lot of research going on to find out how inflammatory breast cancer begins and how it grows. Since it is a very aggressive type of cancer, the information that can be discovered would be vital to increasing the chances of survival of women and men afflicted with this disease. People who find that they have it should try to join clinical trials seeking new treatments that can further improve chances of cure.