What is IBC?
IBC or inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and very aggressive type of breast cancer that occurs in women of any age, but usually affects younger and African-American women. This type of breast cancer is called “inflammatory” because it presents with redness and swelling in the breasts, which are classic signs of inflammation. IBC is said to least likely affect Caucasians and men but overall this type of breast cancer is pretty rare. In the US, only about 5% of breast cancer cases are of the inflammatory type.
Unlike most breast cancers, IBC usually presents with no lumps in the breast. This means mammograms may not be able to detect them. The most common symptom of IBC is breast enlargement in just a matter of a few days. It is typical also of IBC patients to present with pinkish or reddish skin accompanied with some itching. And just like any other inflammatory conditions, the breasts would also be warm to touch. Some patients also have nipples that retract inward while others have some swelling on the lymph nodes particularly those in the underarm or near the clavicle. In some worse cases, the swelling of the breasts may spread to the arms. And if there is a lump present, it could grow in size quickly.
There is no known cause of this type of breast cancer. What doctors only know is that IBC starts off with an abnormality involving only one cell in the breast’s ducts. This abnormality will then grow and spread to other cells leading to the rapid development and presentation of symptoms. Patients suspected of having IBC may be subjected to mammograms and ultrasounds for diagnostic purposes. But these procedures are not considered reliable enough. For definite diagnosis, doctors usually prescribe biopsies.
Treatment for IBC usually involves different methods instead of just one procedure because of the cancer’s rapid development and progression. Chemotherapy may be combined with radiation procedures, hormonal therapy, and in some cases surgery is also necessary.