- What Does the Diagnosis Imply?
- Symptoms and Signs of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
- The Process of Diagnosing the Inflammatory Breast Cancer
- Treatment Options in Case of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
- Personal Future Prognosis in Case of those Facing Inflammatory Breast Cancer
- Cancer Survival Rates Don’t Mean that You’re Doomed
What Does the Diagnosis Imply?
The first thing you’re to understand is that the cancer occurs rarely and it’s very aggressive in character. The disease results in the lymph nodes located in your breast skin getting blocked by cancer cells. The process is referred to as inflammatory since the breast is often swollen, red or inflamed.
The number of breast cancer cases amounts to 1-5% out of all cases detected in the United States. Based on the information given, you may see that it’s quite rare. In the majority of cases, such like cancer involves invasive ductal carcinoma. It means that the cells that cover the milk ducts will be the first aim of the cancer. Only then it’ll get to invading other areas of your organism.
As this type of cancer is considered to be an aggressive one, it means that every week and month counts. When the diagnosis is made, breast cancer turns out to already be on either the third or the fourth stage. If your cancer has only invaded in the lymph nodes that are not so far, it’s stage 3. If, apart from it, other tissues are affected, it’s stage 4. Inflammatory breast cancer has a number of other particular features.
Below you’ll find a list of them:
- Inflammatory breast cancer is much more often to be detected at a younger age in comparison with other breast cancers.
- Usually, these are exactly Afro-American women who are diagnosed with the disease at a younger age than European females.
- In the majority of cases, inflammatory breast cancer doesn’t respond to hormone-based therapy. Therefore, undergoing therapy involving tamoxifen is not an option. Tamoxifen stopps the growth of cancer cells that feed on estrogen.
- Very often it so happens that women these are exactly women who suffer from obesity than those who keep their weight in balance that face the disease.
Of course, as with any other kind of cancer, men can also be a subject to it. However, compared to females, it occurs at an older age.
Symptoms and Signs of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
The list of symptoms that have to do with inflammatory breast cancer involves swelling and redness that attack at least one third of a breast. The skin may also become pink, reddish, purple or even bruised. Besides, there may even be ridges on it because of which the skin often looks pitted and very much like the skin of an orange. The reason for all these is the fluid that accumulates in the underneath the breast skin. As for the fluid accumulation, it happens because of the cancer cells that block the lymph vessels. Consequently, the normal flow of lymph gets disturbed. In very rare cases, the tumor can be so solid that it can be even palpated while your doctor is examining you.
Your breast may also increase rapidly in size. Moreover, there may occur sensations of heaviness, burning or tenderness in your breast. You nipple may be faced inward. You can also detect swollen lymph nodes under the arm or near the collarbone or both.
The crux of the matter about all the symptoms mentioned is that they may also occur for various other reasons including infection, injury or having another kind of breast cancer that’s already locally advanced. That’s why this disease is frequently detected not at the very beginning.
The Process of Diagnosing the Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Actually, it may be quite complicated to diagnose inflammatory breast cancer. Very often it so happens that there is no lump that can be palpated or seen on a screening test present. Besides, women who face it very often have dense breast tissue and it as well makes the detection of the disease on the basis of mammogram screening more complicated. Apart from it, since the cancer is aggressive in character, it may occur in between the tests and develop very fast. The symptoms that occur in case you have the disease may be muddled up with the symptoms of mastitis. This is the disease during which infection of the breast takes place and it’s considered to be a form of locally advanced breast cancer.
In order to diagnose the disease as fast as possible, which, of course contributes considerably to providing a patient with the most efficient treatment options, an international panel of experts has worked out certain guides. Following the instructions given in them, doctors can not only make the right diagnosis, but define the stage the inflammatory breast cancer is on. You’ll find all the main recommendations below.
Minimum criteria on the basis of which the diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer can be made:
- Redness accompanied by swelling and ridged or pitted skin start to attack the breast skin really fast. There may also be breast warmth present. Besides, there is a possibility of having a lump that can be detected.
- The symptoms we’ve mentioned above should be present for at least 6 months and it’s impossible to get rid of them.
- The redness affects at least one third of your breast.
- There have been samples of tissue taken from the attacked breast. There are cells of invasive carcinoma detected in them.
A set of tests that are carried out once the samples have been diagnosed involve carrying out further testing with the view of stating whether the cancer cells have hormone receptors (here it’s about estrogen and progesterone) and whether any of them have abnormal amounts of the HER2 gene or the HER2 protein. If there are any, the cancer is referred to as the HER2 positive breast cancer.
As for imaging and staging tests, they are as follows:
- Carrying out a diagnostic mammogram in combination with an ultrasound examination of the breast and the lymph nodes located close to it
- Undergoing a procedure of either PET or CT scanning. The major aim of these scans is to find out whether cancer has already started invading other areas of your organism.
having staged and made a correct diagnosis is very significant for working out the most efficient treatment plan and drawing conclusions as to what the prognosis of a patient may be. Those who deal with inflammatory breast cancer may be interested in talking everything over with a doctor who specializes in the field.
Treatment Options in Case of Inflammatory Breast Cancer
As a rule, the first procedure you’re to undergo if dealing with inflammatory breast cancer is a set of chemotherapy sessions. It’s beneficial in a way that it make the rumor smaller. Chemotherapy is then followed by a surgical operation to remove it and radiotherapy. Such like treatment succession is called a multimodal approach. According to various researches, females who are diagnosed with the disease are much more likely to stay alive for a longer time and respond better to therapy if treated this way. There is also a number of treatment procedures the approach involves. You’ll find a list of them together with descriptions below.
- Neoadjuvant chemotherapy that implies both anthracycline and taxane drugs and is prescribed before the surgical operation. Usually, you’re told to undergo at least 6 cycles of it within 4-6 months before a surgical operation is carried out. An exception can be made if the cancer goes on developing irrespective of the therapy. Then, your doctor may assume that there is an urgent need for surgery.
- Targeted therapy. The crux of the matter is that inflammatory breast cancer contributes greatly to the production of abnormal amounts of the HER2 protein. In order to get rid of it, drugs like Herceptin are used. This anti-HER2 therapy may either be a part of neoadjuvant therapy or be prescribed after the surgical operation. In this case, it’s referred to as adjuvant.
- Hormone based therapy is an option if the cells of the cancer have hormone receptors. Here tamoxifen may be used to stop the process of estrogen binding to the receptor. Tamoxifen is, as a rule, accompanied by aromatase inhibitors (letrozole) that make your organism unable to produce estrogen and enables cells that feed on estrogen to stop growing and developing. Eventually, the cells start to starve and, then, they die.
- Surgical operation. A modified radical operation is considered to be a common treatment option. It implies that the whole affected breast and practically all lymph nodes located under the adjacent arm will be removed. Very often it so happens that your surgeon will also get rid of the covering located over the underlying chest muscles. However, keep in mind that the chest muscles itself will be left behind. In very rare cases, the smaller chest muscle that is called pectoralis minor is also to be removed.
- Radiotherapy sessions. The procedure implies that there will be radiation directed at the chest wall under the removed breast. As you see, the sessions are prescribed once you’ve undergone the operation. In case you received trastuzumab before the surgical operation, you’re still free to go on receiving on the recovery from the operation stage and later. Doctors may also perform a breast reconstruction operation if you wish. Still, you should bear in mind that radiotherapy is one of the treatment’s key points and, for this reason, patients are strongly recommended too undergo it later, once the radiotherapy sessions are over.
- Adjuvant therapy may be recommended after the surgical operation with the view of lowering the risk of the disease recurrence down. The therapy may involve such procedures as additional sessions of chemotherapy, hormone-based therapy, targeted therapy (when a drug like trastuzumab is used). These procedures may as well be combined with each other.
Personal Future Prognosis in Case of those Facing Inflammatory Breast Cancer
The prognosis implies that there exists a chance of the disease successfully treated and the patient being completely cured and recovered. Actually, there are lots of factors that may have an impact on the prognosis. A list of them involves the type of cancer and where in the body it’s located, the stage you’re diagnosed with, your age, overall state of health and how well your respond to the treatment.
Since inflammatory breast cancer is, as a rule, aggressive in character, women who face it don’t usually live longer than those who deal with other types of breast cancer.
It’s important to remember, however, that survival statistics is based largely on big amounts of patients and that your personal future prognosis can differ greatly. It will depend a lot on your medical record and peculiarities of the tumor. Taking it all into account, you’re more than welcome to talk every tiny peculiarity over with your doctor.
Thanks to the research that’s being carried out on an ongoing basis, doctors will be able to have a better understanding of the mechanism of the breast cancer occurrence and development. Here we are talking already about the molecular level. On the basis of the knowledge, new treatment options will be worked out and it will be possible to give a more accurate future prognosis. However, discussing an option of taking part in clinical trials with your doctor is also of paramount importance for you since you may benefit greatly from it.
Cancer Survival Rates Don’t Mean that You’re Doomed
The key point of survival rates is that, to a great extent, they are based on large amounts of patients but they can’t tell you for sure what will be the result in your personal case. There are a number of things you’re to bear in mind when looking them through.
They are given below:
- Irrespective of the fact that they are as up-to-date as possible, there is still a need to take into account those people who were diagnosed with the disease at least 5-years ago to get information on survival. Remember that treatment techniques are constantly improving. Consequently, if you’re said to have the disease, you may have better chances than you’re presented with.
- The statistics only considers the stage of cancer at the time when a patient was diagnosed with it. It means that it has nothing to do with the cases of the disease recurrence or the disease that has invaded other areas of your organism.
- In case a person is fighting against pancreatic cancer, the prognosis may differ greatly in accordance with its stage. As a rule, the rates are higher if it’s about the early stages. At the same time, there are lots of other factors that may make a person’s prognosis better or worse. Such like factors include your age and general state of health and the way you respond to the treatment. Don’t forget that your future prognosis is made in accordance with your particular circumstances.
Of course, if you want to have a better understanding of what the numbers mean for you, there is a necessity to talk to your doctor since he or she knows every tiny detail of your case.