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What is Inflammatory Breast Cancer?

> Information about IBC is also available in Español.

> We run the oldest and largest IBC support group in the world (since 1996); you can browse messages or join the list.

> May 2009: Rep. Carolyn McCarthy Introduces Bill to Raise Awareness of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

> KOMO TV in Seattle ran a segment on inflammatory breast cancer in May 2006.

Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) is an especially aggressive form of breast cancer that does not always start with a lump. Symptoms often include the following:

  • A warm swollen breast that does not change through the menstrual cycle or respond to antibiotics
  • Skin which is red or appears dimpled like an orange (peau d'orange)
Other possible signs of IBC include:
  • The sudden appearance of a large lump in the breast
  • Itching or pain in the breast
  • A nipple which is flattened or inverted, possibly with a discharge
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or above the collarbone

(The IBC Research Foundation has a longer list of symptoms).

These symptoms often appear with IBC because the cancer is fast-growing and blocks the lymph vessels in the breast and skin. All of the listed symptoms may also be present with benign breast disorders. Different women have different symptoms, and although IBC is normally associated with infiltration of the skin lymphatic system, in some cases there may be no visible skin changes.

Pictures of inflammatory breast cancer at time of diagnosis, the frequent weight gain effects of some steroids, and examples of skin mets (metastasis) are available for mature visitors to this web site.

IBC is a serious illness, although techniques for treating it have improved a lot, and survival rates are rising. Some recent studies show about 40% survival five years after diagnosis, and here are relatively few recurrences after five years. Men can get IBC too, although it is extremely rare, and it has been documented in girls as young as 12. Two thirds of patients are post-menopausal at diagnosis.

It is important to receive prompt treatment for IBC. The treatment is usually 3 to 6 rounds of chemotherapy, followed by mastectomy. More conventional or high-dose chemotherapy may be given after surgery, depending on the level of tumor response. Most IBC patients have radiation to the chest wall after surgery and chemotherapy. Many follow treatment with a hormonal drug called Tamoxifen.


This web site was written in 1997 by Pete Bevin and Menya Wolfe; since then, many others have contributed to it, notably Alexandra Andrews and Lee Smith.

Menya died of Inflammatory Breast Cancer in February 2001.


This site is dedicated to the many hundreds of women and men who have been part of it, and who have supported each other even in their own time of need.

This web site is owned and operated by Pete Bevin. Please read the site disclaimer.