Inflammatory breast cancer accounts for about one percent of all breast cancers. The average age at diagnosis is 57 years old, which is approximately five years younger than the average age for other types of breast cancer.
The most significant symptom will be swelling of the breast in the affected area, rather than a lump. This area may be red and hard to the touch, and the skin may have ridges or appear pitted, giving it the appearance of an orange peel.
This type of cancer spreads more quickly, so treatment should start immediately following diagnosis. Often, a course of chemotherapy and targeted treatment are given before surgery. This will shrink the tumour to make excision easier, and help heal the inflamed area. Targeted therapy consists of locking the HER2 receptors on the cancer cells, which will stall their ability to grow. Targeted therapies have been developed specifically to block these proteins. In addition, hormonal therapy can help to block the division and growth of cancer cells which are sensitive to estrogen.
If the cancer responds to therapy, a radical mastectomy may be performed. If not, an additional course of chemotherapy might be given, followed by radiotherapy and eventually a mastectomy with resection of the lymph nodes.