Diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC)

According to the National Cancer Institute, “To help prevent delays in diagnosis and in choosing the best course of treatment, an international panel of experts published guidelines on how doctors can diagnose and stage inflammatory breast cancer correctly. Their recommendations are summarized below.

Minimum criteria for a diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer include the following:

  • A rapid onset of erythema (redness), edema (swelling), and a peau d’orange appearance (ridged or pitted skin) and/or abnormal breast warmth, with or without a lump that can be felt.
  • The above-mentioned symptoms have been present for less than 6 months.
  • The erythema covers at least a third of the breast.
  • Initial biopsy samples from the affected breast show invasive carcinoma.

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).

Imaging and staging tests include the following:

  • A diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound of the breast and regional (nearby) lymph nodes
  • A PET scan or a CT scan and a bone scan to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body
  • Proper diagnosis and staging of inflammatory breast cancer helps doctors develop the best treatment plan and estimate the likely outcome of the disease. Patients diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer may want to consult a doctor who specializes in this disease.”
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