It’s essential to establish a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan for inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) as early as possible. For this reason, MD Anderson’s team approach, which brings together experts from many specialties, is extremely important.
As a patient in the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Clinic, you are the focus of some of the most talented and experienced physicians in the world. They communicate and collaborate often about your treatment.
And MD Anderson is leading the way toward newer and more effective treatments for inflammatory breast cancer. Targeted therapies, one of the most exciting possibilities on the horizon, offer new hope for some patients. Many of the newest, most successful treatments, including targeted therapies, were or are being developed at MD Anderson.
Our Inflammatory Breast Cancer Treatments
If you are diagnosed with IBC, your doctor will discuss the best options to treat it. This depends on several factors. Your treatment for inflammatory breast cancer will be customized to your needs. One or more of the following therapies may be recommended to treat the cancer or help relieve symptoms.
The goal of chemotherapy is to eliminate or reduce inflammatory breast cancer before surgery. Using chemotherapy before surgery is call neoadjuvant or primary chemotherapy. MD Anderson offers the most up-to-date and effective chemotherapy options. Women with IBC usually receive a combination of at least two drugs. Chemotherapy should be started as soon as possible to prevent the spread of the disease.
Because inflammatory breast cancer usually does not have a distinctive breast lump, surgery to remove just the cancerous tissue (lumpectomy) is not possible. A complete mastectomy (removal of the entire breast) usually is needed to remove all the affected areas.
The surgeon looks at lymph nodes close to the breast during surgery, and nearby lymph nodes are removed in most cases. Breast reconstruction usually is not recommended initially after surgery for IBC. It is best to wait until therapy has been completed and there is no evidence of disease.
Like all surgeries, breast cancer surgery is most successful when performed by a specialist with a great deal of experience in the particular procedure. MD Anderson’s breast surgeons are among the most skilled and renowned in the world. They perform a large number of surgeries for inflammatory breast cancer each year, using the most-advanced techniques.
After chemotherapy and surgery, radiation therapy may be performed on the chest wall and lymph nodes. Radiation helps control disease and reduce the risk of it coming back. It also may be used to treat IBC that has spread, to manage pain or to help you feel better if you cannot have surgery.
New radiation therapy techniques and remarkable skill allow MD Anderson doctors to target tumors more precisely, delivering the maximum amount of radiation with the least damage to healthy cells.
Targeted therapies use the cancer’s specific genetic or biological makeup to help the body attack the disease. MD Anderson is among a select group of cancer centers in the nation that offer targeted therapies for inflammatory breast cancer.
If inflammatory breast cancer is hormone-receptor positive (estrogen receptor [ER] or progesterone receptor [PR]), you may need hormone therapy. These oral medicines stop the body from making or activating estrogen and progesterone. Doctors choose the best type of hormone therapy depending on your menopause status.
Treatment at MD Anderson
Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) is treated in a special IBC Clinic at our Nellie B. Connally Breast Center.
MD Anderson patients have access to clinical trials offering
promising new treatments that cannot be found anywhere else.
Find the latest news and information about inflammatory breast cancer
(IBC) in our Knowledge Center, including blog posts, articles, videos,
news releases and more.
At age 43, I had never been sick with more than a cold. So when I found out I had stage IV inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) in December 2011, I was shocked and scared. It didn’t help that the doctors said I only had a 1% chance of going into remission.
After watching my own mother lose her battle to cancer, I knew I needed to get treatment somewhere that was devoted to its patients and had a leading reputation. I quickly chose MD Anderson, which has a clinic dedicated to treating inflammatory breast cancer, the most aggressive type of breast cancer. It was just a few hours from my home in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, and I knew my life was worth the drive.
Upon arriving at MD Anderson, my first impression was that I wasn’t fighting alone. Every person I met, whether a patient or employee, was helpful and friendly. My doctors and nurses were genuinely concerned, and that made me feel safe.
Choosing a clinical trial for my inflammatory breast cancer
My oncologist, Vicente Valero, M.D., was extremely knowledgeable and understanding. He suggested I take part in a clinical trial. Given the aggressive state of my inflammatory breast cancer, I was skeptical about trying something experimental. But after Dr. Valero explained all my options and the benefits of the specific trial, I decided to participate.
Every three weeks I traveled to Houston for chemotherapy. I was very fortunate to only have one side effect -- fatigue. I didn’t lose my hair or nails. In fact, if you had seen me out in public during that time, you wouldn’t have been able to tell I was a stage IV cancer patient.
Mentally, though, I kept waiting for my health to deteriorate and for things to get worse. I took a leave of absence from my teaching job and stopped doing things I loved like yard work. My sisters also insisted that I stop doing everyday tasks like ironing, laundry and even driving.
After about three months, my scans started to show that the cancer wasn’t spreading. Shortly after that, the tumor in my breast began to shrink.
As the cancer dissipated, my hope grew and I began living again. I returned to my job, where I teach gifted and talented students, and even started cutting my own grass again.
Beating the odds and winning my fight against inflammatory
In April 2013, I was informed that there was no evidence of disease. I had beaten the odds against inflammatory breast cancer and won the fight! The day after I received the news, my son informed me that I was going to be a grandmother. I knew then that God had let me stay for this reason.
Every six months I return to MD Anderson for follow-up appointments. Since treatment, I’ve changed my diet and have become conscientious of how I fuel and take care of my body.
My advice to current patients is to keep the faith. It’s all about attitude. Remember that miracles do happen. I’m living proof.