Written by : Dr.M.D.Mazumdar, MD
Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) is a fast growing and aggressive cancer which is difficult to diagnose in its early stages. It can spread in a matter of weeks or months. At diagnosis, inflammatory breast cancer can be either stage III or IV disease, depending on whether cancer cells have spread only to nearby lymph nodes or to other tissues as well.
The main method of diagnosing inflammatory breast cancer is by breast biopsy. Other methods like ultrasound or mammography cannot give an accurate picture since IBC does not form a definite lump. It grows in sheets or layers of cancerous cells which can be missed on physical examination.
IBC is also frequently misdiagnosed as a simple inflammation of the breast (mastitis).
About 30 percent of women with IBC have metastasis by the time they are diagnosed. Metastasis means spread of the cancer beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other organs in the body such as the bones, lungs, liver or brain.
Inflammatory Breast cancer - Mammography
Additional tests: Once IBC has been diagnosed, additional tests are necessary to identify any spread (metastases) to other organs. Some of these tests are :
Minimum criteria for a diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer
Further examination of tissue from the affected breast should include testing to see if the cancer cells have hormone receptors (estrogen and progesterone receptors) or if they have greater than normal amounts of the HER2 gene and/or the HER2 protein (HER2-positive breast cancer).
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