Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is rare, accounting for only up to 5 percent of all breast cancers. IBC diagnosis requires an expert and aggressive treatment is the most effective.

At Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, our team provides specialized, innovative treatments for all types of breast cancer in a community setting. Our providers understand IBC and know how to treat it effectively.

What Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

IBC is an invasive cancer affecting the skin of the breast. As a rare and aggressive cancer, IBC may grow and spread throughout the body (metastasize) more quickly than other types of breast cancer.

The risk factors associated with IBC differ from other types of breast cancer. IBC tends to be diagnosed in younger women and also affects men. African American women are at a higher risk for IBC, as are women who are overweight or obese.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer Symptoms

Most people with IBC have signs of the disease, but not typical breast cancer symptoms. IBC rarely includes a distinct breast lump. Instead, women with IBC may notice reddening and/or swelling of the breast as cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin.

Sometimes the signs of IBC are mistaken for an infection. But unlike an infection, symptoms of IBC do not respond to antibiotics and tend to worsen quickly. Indicators of IBC include:

  • Breast swelling (edema)
  • Discoloration or redness of breast skin on more than one-third of the breast
  • Dimpling or thickening of skin resembling an orange peel
  • Retracted or inverted nipple
  • Tenderness, warmth, pain or itchiness in the breast
  • Lymph node swelling in the armpit or near the collarbone

Diagnosing Inflammatory Cancer of the Breast

IBC is not usually diagnosed until symptoms appear. Since IBC does not cause a breast lump, it may not show up during routine breast cancer screening. If your physician suspects cancer, breast imaging and a biopsy may confirm a diagnosis of IBC.

Because IBC is difficult to diagnose, it is typically identified at a more advanced cancer stage (stage III). IBC may be considered metastatic breast cancer (stage IV) if cancer cells have spread outside the breast. One out of every three cases of IBC are stage IV at the time of diagnosis. Learn more about breast cancer diagnosis.

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Inflammatory Breast Cancer: The Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Advantage

We offer complete care and treatment for every stage of IBC. The benefits of our care include:

  • Precise diagnosis: Our radiologists (imaging specialists) and pathologists (physicians who study body tissue) are experts in breast cancer. They can pinpoint IBC quickly and accurately to get you the care you need as soon as possible.
  • Team approach: We bring together specialists from all aspects of breast cancer care. Our multidisciplinary team works to develop and administer treatment personalized to each patient. Meet our breast cancer team.
  • Innovative treatments: As part of Penn Medicine, we offer access to promising treatment through clinical trials available in Lancaster and Philadelphia. As leaders in breast cancer research, we provide high-level care for advanced and metastatic breast cancer.
  • Wide-ranging support: Our comprehensive cancer support services supplement your treatment. We provide relief and assistance when you need it most.
  • World-class care close to home: We offer academic-level breast cancer care in a community setting at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute in Lancaster. Learn more about our breast cancer care locations.

Our Approach to Inflammatory Breast Cancer Treatment

When cancer is invasive, it needs to be treated quickly and effectively to stop the spread. At Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, we have the experience and expertise to diagnose IBC accurately and treat it aggressively. Your breast cancer treatment for IBC may include:

Request an Appointment

To make an appointment at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute, call 717-544-9400 or request a callback using our online form.

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