This article is reviewed, corrected, and approved by: Julia Weiss CNP| RN | MPH

Among the various forms of breast cancer, IBC is a unique variant that is not commonly seen. It affects just a small minority of the population, particularly women. Both men and women are susceptible to IBC.

One of the most life-threatening and lethal forms of cancer is inflammatory breast cancer, which can be hard to diagnose and treat. Today, we will take an in-depth look at IBC and what it is, how it forms, risk factors, type, symptoms, and treatments.

What Is Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC)

IBC looks like a virus or breast infection at first sight, but it's not. Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is identified as aggressive cancer that causes inflammation of the breast skin, which makes it appear breast red, swollen, and feel warm, similar to an infected area.

When breast cancer develops, dark redness and heat may appear in the breast, giving the nerve blockage look like an infection. Managing IBC poses extreme challenges due to its propensity for rapid dissemination and limited treatment options. It is often misdiagnosed as mastitis, a common bacterial infection that can affect breast tissue. Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) spreads more rapidly than any typical breast cancer.

It spreads through the lymphatic system and is even more difficult to diagnose lately. This makes it particularly difficult to detect and cure if inflammatory breast cancer is not detected at an early stage.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer Types

Around 264000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by 2022. Unfortunately, breast cancer killed 44,000 women and 500 males that year. There are four forms of inflammatory breast cancer; each has its unique set of traits and prognosis. The four types are

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC)

This type of known as a common type of IBC in Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Malignant cells (in the lymph system) proliferate rapidly and infiltrate healthy cells. The lymph system is well-known for its malignant cells (inside it) that adapt and proliferate uncontrolled. It usually starts in the mammary glands (produce milk) and spreads to various areas of the body.

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma or ILC

This form of IBC is referred to be a sluggish mass of erythrocytes (RBC) that infect healthy cells. It typically originates in the lobules of the breast, which are the small glands that produce milk, and it begins to spread to other regions of the body.

Mucinous Carcinoma

Mucinous Carcinoma is referred as a rare type of cancer that occurs when cancer cells form in mucin, the main component of mucus. The pancreas, appendix, and colorectal area are the most typically affected.

Inflammatory Carcinoma

Inflammatory Carcinoma is an infrequent subtype of breast cancer, making up a small proportion of cases, around 1-5%.

What Are the Risk Factors of Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

  • Age
  • Personal history of breast cancer
  • Gender
  • Genetics
  • Overweight
  • Family history
  • Reproductive history
  • Hormonal factors
  • Lifestyle factor

Inflammatory Breast Cancer Symptoms

A girl checking lymph nodes under the arm for swollenness

IBC symptoms include unexpected swelling, skin irritation, and breast pain. IBC is often treated with a mix of surgery, radiation treatment, chemo, and laser surgery. The most common signs of inflammatory breast cancer are an overall thickening of the breast tissue that may feel like a breast lump or a thickening in the skin of the breast like a tumor.

Symptoms of Inflammatory Breast Cancer may include:

  • Breast edema and redness occur quickly.
  • Warmth and tenderness.
  • Dimpling or pitted skin on the breast.
  • Change in the Appearance of the Breast
  • An inverted nipple.
  • A rash or crusting on the nipple.
  • The orange peel-like appearance of the skin.
  • Uneasiness or Soreness in the Breast
  • Lymph nodes tend to swell up mainly due to infection.

Additional symptoms include tenderness in the affected breast, warmth, and changes in the skin's texture or discoloration. No matter what type of Inflammatory Breast Cancers you have, it is important to get seek medical attention in order to receive an accurate diagnosis and start treatment.

The Early Warning Signs

A woman confronting an oncologist about breast pain and tenderness

The Early Warning Signs

One of the most noticeable warning symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer includes inflammation, skin irritation, discomfort, and skin edema. The breast may also look pitted, much like an orange peel, and the nipple may become inverted. The early signs are

Pain or Tenderness in the Breast Area

Soreness in the breast may be a sign of IBC. The pain may be continuous or come and go and may be accompanied by unpleasant feelings or sensitivity in the breast.

Breast Soreness or Irritation

Soreness and irritation in the breast, especially if associated with a burning sensation, may be an indicator of IBC. This soreness or irritation can occur suddenly and can affect one or both breasts.

Signs Of inflammation on skin

Female body skin changes such as swelling, puffiness, or bulging can also be an indication of IBC. The skin may also appear red and warm, and there may be ridges or bumps that were not present before.

If you face see any of these symptoms, do a screening as fast as possible. Chances are, your cancer will be detected early.

Importance of Early Detection

Identifying Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) at an early stage is vital for achieving better treatment outcomes and increasing the probability of having a positive outcome. When IBC is caught in its early stages, there is a greater chance of treating it effectively with surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy.

Early diagnosis also allows for a more personalized treatment plan and may improve the chances of conserving the breast. Make sure to observe any symptoms of IBC and seek emergency treatment quickly in the event that they arise.

Diagnosis of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

A doctor performing mammography to check inflammatory breast cancer

A doctor performs mammography to check inflammatory breast cancer.

The Medical Exam

A physical exam of the breast and a comprehensive medical history are necessary steps for an inflammatory breast cancer specialist to make a diagnosis. The breast surgeon will carefully examine both breasts for any modifications in appearance, such as skin thickening, redness, or swelling.

Imaging tests and diagnostic imaging techniques, including mammograms, ultrasonography, and magnetic resonance images (MRI), may potentially be used to diagnose IBC. If cancer responds to these tests, then these tests can help to confirm the presence of cancer and determine the size and location of a breast infection.

Biopsy Results

Biopsy is a diagnostic test that involves the removal of a tissue sample from the breast for examination under a microscope. The confirmation of an Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) diagnosis hinges exclusively on this approach. Breast biopsy samples will be inspected beneath the microscope to detect the existence of cells that are cancerous and what kind of cancer cells.

Treatment Inflammatory Breast Cancer

The treatment plan for Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) is generally a combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and other forms of systemic therapy. Surgery is typically recommended to remove the cancerous tissue in the breast and possibly in surrounding nearby lymph vessels or nearby lymph nodes.

Radioactive treatment is used after surgery to kill any leftover cancer cells and to lower the chance of regrowth. After diagnosis and treatment, Clinical Breast Exam (CBE) or CT scan can be used to help visualize the breast and surrounding tissues. This might help to determine the action for the individual. The goal of treatment for IBC is to control cancer and to achieve long-term remission or cure.

Coping With The Diagnosis After Treatment

An IBC patient attending counselling group

Finding Support: The process of diagnosing Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) can challenging and difficult to process. It is important to find support from close persons (e.g. friends, family members, or a support group). This can help to provide emotional support to talk about feelings and concerns.

Making Treatment Decisions: After being diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, it is important to work with a healthcare team to develop a personalized treatment plan to stop the spreading of cancer. This may involve surgery, radiation therapy, or several rounds of chemotherapy.

Dealing with Emotional Impact: A diagnosis of IBC can be not only physically it emotionally challenging. It is essential to look for yourself, both mentally and physically. This can include regular physical activity, practicing stress reduction techniques, and seeking help and advice from doctors, therapists, or a counselor.

However, remember that every person's experience with IBC is different and that there are no single "correct" approach.


Here are all of the steps that led to you discovering whether you have inflammatory breast cancer or not. If you notice any of these indications that we discussed, seek medical assistance without delay. To determine if you have IBC, your doctor may do a physical exam, mammogram, radiograph, biopsy, or ultrasonography test.

Timely detection and timely treatment are key factors in controlling and diagnosing IBC. Early detection and taking the necessary steps are crucial for improving a successful outcome. It's important to be cognizant of the warning signs of IBC and to seek medical attention as soon as possible if they occur.


Q: What factors contribute to Black women having an incidence of IBC in comparison to White women?

Ans: The reason for the disparity in the incidence of inflammatory breast cancer between Black and white women remains unclear and is believed to be a result of a complex interaction of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

Q: Is IBC or inflammatory breast cancer hereditary?

Ans: IBC is not hereditary, and a family history of IBC or mutations in genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 can increase one's risk of developing the disease.

Q: What is the Inflammatory breast-cancer survival rate?

Ans: IBC cancer patients had a 40-57% 5-year survival rate.

Q: What is ICD-10 code for a history of breast cancer?

Ans: The ICD 10 code for breast cancer is C50.9. In most cases, doctors and insurance companies use the ICD-10 code to document and report the diagnosis, treatment, and outcome of the disease for reimbursement and data analysis purposes.