Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare kind of breast cancer. It grows very fast making the affected breast red, enlarged and tender. It occurs when cancer cells obstruct the lymphatic vessels in the skin covering the breast. Inflammatory breast cancer is known as a locally advanced cancer which means it has spread from its starting point to nearby tissue and perhaps to nearby lymph nodes.
The exact cause is not known, but it is believed that inflammatory breast cancer starts with an abnormal cell in ducts of one breast. Mutation makes them grow and divide speedily. The accumulation of abnormal cells infiltrates and clogs the lymphatic vessels in the skin of the breast. This blockage in the lymphatic vessels makes red, swollen and dimpled skin, which is a typical indication of inflammatory breast cancer.
Physical exam: Your doctor will examine your breast to look for symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer.
Imaging tests: A breast X-ray or breast ultrasound can be done to detect the signs. Sometimes, additional imaging tests, like MRI, may also be recommended.
Biopsy: A biopsy is a method to take out a small sample of suspicious breast tissue for testing. The tissue is then analyzed in a laboratory to find signs of cancer.
Some additional tests may be required to determine whether your cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other areas of your body.
A CT scan, positron emission tomography scan or bone scan may be recommended. Your doctor will assign you a stage on the basis of these tests. According to your cancer stage, your doctor chooses the treatments suitable for you.
Treatment generally starts with chemotherapy, followed by surgery and radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy is done by using chemicals to kill cancer cells. You get chemotherapy drugs through a vein or in pill form or both of them.
Chemotherapy is generally used before surgery in the case of inflammatory breast cancer. The pre-surgical treatment, known as neoadjuvant therapy is done to shrink cancer prior to the surgery.
After chemotherapy, you may have surgery to eliminate the affected breast. The procedure generally used for inflammatory breast cancer is a modified radical mastectomy that involves eliminating the complete breast and some nearby lymph nodes.
Radiation therapy uses high-powered energy beams, like X-rays and protons, for the killing of cancer cells. In radiation therapy, you lie on the table while a large machine moves around you, sending the energy beams to your cancer to kill any cancer cells remaining after chemotherapy and surgery.
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