Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer that spreads rapidly. It accounts for roughly 1-5% of all breast cancer cases and is often mistaken for an infection due to its distinct appearance and symptoms.
Inflammatory breast cancer typically affects younger women and African American women more commonly than white women. Its complexity and rarity make it particularly challenging to diagnose and treat.
But what exactly is inflammatory breast cancer, and why is it so different from other forms of breast cancer?
What Exactly Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a type of cancer that begins in the cells of the breast and is characterised by redness, swelling, and warmth in the breast, as well as an orange-peel-like texture of the skin caused by the tumours blocking the lymph vessels in the skin.
Unlike other types of breast cancer, IBC does not typically cause a lump or mass in the breast (see also: How Long To Wait After Finding A Lump In Your Breast?)that can be felt during a physical exam. Instead, the skin of the breast may appear red and inflamed, and the breast may be swollen and tender.
IBC is a fast-growing cancer that is usually diagnosed as an advanced stage of cancer. It is typically diagnosed through a combination of physical exam, imaging studies, and biopsy. Treatment for IBC usually includes chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
While IBC is a rare form of breast cancer, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with the disease and to get regular screening so that it can be diagnosed and treated early.
Is IBC Inherited?
There is some evidence to suggest that IBC may have some hereditary component, meaning that a person’s risk of developing the disease may be influenced by genetic factors.
However, the exact causes of IBC are still not fully understood, and further research is needed to establish a clear link between heredity and IBC.
Several risk factors have been identified that could increase the likelihood of developing IBC.
These include being female, having a genetic mutation (such as the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations), a family history of breast cancer, and environmental factors such as exposure to radiation or chemicals.
While having a family history of breast cancer is a known risk factor for developing breast cancer in general, it may not be a significant risk factor for IBC specifically.
Most cases of IBC occur in women who do not have a family history of breast cancer.
However, having a family history of breast cancer, especially in close relatives such as a mother or sister, may increase the risk of developing any form of breast cancer, including IBC.
Most Common Types Of Breast Cancers
As we know, breast cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the cells of the breast tissue. There are several different types of breast cancer, but the most common types are invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) and invasive lobular cancer (ILC).
IDC is the most common type of breast cancer, accounting for about 80% of all invasive breast cancers. IDC starts in the milk ducts of the breast and then invades the surrounding breast tissue.
Risk factors for IDC include being female, age, family history of breast cancer, obesity, and alcohol consumption.
ILC is less common, accounting for about 10% of invasive breast cancers. ILC starts in the milk-producing glands and then invades the surrounding breast tissue.
Risk factors for ILC are similar to those for IDC, including being female, age, family history of breast cancer, obesity, and alcohol consumption.
Another type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), which is non-invasive breast cancer. DCIS is a stage 0 cancer, meaning it hasn’t spread beyond the milk ducts.
However, if left untreated, DCIS can progress to invasive breast cancer. Risk factors for DCIS include being female, age, family history of breast cancer, and exposure to oestrogen.
Breast Cancer Stages
The stage of breast cancer is determined by the size of the tumour, whether it has invaded nearby lymph nodes, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.
The different stages of breast cancer impact treatment options, with earlier stages generally having more treatment options available.
Diagnosing breast cancer often involves a combination of mammograms, biopsies, and other imaging techniques. Mammograms use low-energy X-rays to detect abnormalities in the breast tissue.
Biopsies involve removing a small sample of tissue from the breast to be examined under a microscope. Imaging techniques, such as MRI or ultrasound, can help determine the size and location of the tumour.
Knowing the different types of breast cancer, their risk factors, and how they are diagnosed can help individuals be proactive about their breast health and seek treatment options that work best for their specific situation.
Treatments For Inflammatory Breast Cancer?
The primary treatment for inflammatory breast cancer is chemotherapy, which is used to reduce the size of the cancer and kill cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is usually given in combination with other treatments such as radiation therapy, which helps to destroy any remaining cancer cells in the area.
Surgery may also be recommended if the cancer has not spread beyond the breast area. Surgery may involve a partial or total mastectomy, which involves the removal of the entire breast and surrounding tissue.
Hormone therapy may also be recommended for inflammatory breast cancer. This type of therapy is used to block the effects of hormones that may be contributing to the growth of cancer.
Hormone therapy may be used alone or in combination with other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Other treatments may include targeted therapies, which work to block the growth of specific cancer cells, and immunotherapy, which helps the body’s immune system (see also: How Does Acupuncture Boost The Immune System?)to fight the cancer cells.
While there is still much to learn about the hereditary factors of IBC, it is clear that there could be an increased risk of developing the disease in individuals with a family history of certain cancers, including breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Additionally, lifestyle factors, such as obesity, poor diet, and lack of exercise, can also increase the risk of developing IBC. Therefore, it is important for individuals to be aware of their family history and lifestyle choices in order to reduce their risk of developing IBC.