Inflammatory breast cancer is a very aggressive but rare form of breast cancer. It constitutes approximately 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancer cases. In this article, we will discuss what exactly inflammatory breast cancer is, its manifestations including signs and symptoms, how it is diagnosed, its staging, the various lines of treatment available for it, the prognosis, survival rates, and projected life expectancy for the patients who have it.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a disease in which the cells that normally form the breast tissues multiply and grow uncontrollably, often due to a mutation in a certain gene, until the abnormal cells form a mass that puts pressure on the nearby breast structures. As with all kinds of cancer, breast cancer is classified into benign and malignant masses. While benign tumors may sound harmless, they can still deform the breast and cause much discomfort. In actuality, the word “benign” simply means that this type of breast cancer will stay at the one location where it originated, and will not spread to the rest of the body. On the other hand, malignant breast cancer has the ability to “metastasize” or spread to areas of the body outside the breast, most commonly including the liver, brain, lungs, and bone. Not only does this cause pain and harm in multiple body sites, it also means that removing the original tumor through surgery will not cure the disease, since the other tumors can keep growing and spreading. Breast cancer occurs almost exclusively in women, but may very rarely arise in male patients.
That’s not the only way to classify the different types of breast cancer. After taking out a piece of the tumor, it is put on a tiny glass slide and viewed using a high-powered microscope. Depending on what the pathologist sees through the lens, he/she may assign the tumor a certain “grade”. Grading tumors is based on how abnormal the cells look. If they look just slightly off, the tumor is given a low grade, which usually translates into a good prognosis. If the cancer cells have very dark and large nuclei, look like they’ve been placed haphazardly, and show evidence that they are capable of an abnormally high rate of replication, the tumor is more likely to be labelled a high grade tumor, which usually means a less promising prognosis for the patient.