Early diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) greatly increases your chances for successful treatment.
Since symptoms of IBC often are similar to those of breast infection (mastitis), your doctor first may prescribe antibiotics. If the symptoms do not improve or grow worse, you should have diagnostic tests as soon as possible. These may include:
- Mammogram and MRI mammography
- Ultrasound of the breast and lymph nodes
- Biopsy (removal of a small piece of tissue that is examined under a microscope) of any mass, enlarged lymph node and/or breast skin
In most cases of inflammatory breast cancer, a mammogram will not reveal a distinct breast lump but may show skin thickening or enlarged lymph nodes. If a biopsy confirms cancer cells are present, more imaging scans and possibly more biopsies may be needed to get an accurate picture of the disease.
Some cases of inflammatory breast cancer can be passed down from one generation to the next. Genetic counseling may be right for you. Learn more about the risk to you and your family on our genetic testing page.
Staging is a way of classifying cancer by how much disease is in the body and where it has spread when it is diagnosed. This helps the doctor plan the best way to treat the cancer. The stage of the cancer stays the same even if treatment works or the disease spreads.
IBC is considered Stage IIIB or IIIC upon diagnosis. If the cancer has spread to distant areas (metastasized) such the liver, lung or brain, it is a Stage IV cancer.