What is inflammatory breast cancer (IBC)?

Updated: Feb 04, 2021
  • Author: Pavani Chalasani, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: John V Kiluk, MD, FACS  more...
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IBC is a clinical diagnosis that implies presentation with the cardinal signs of inflammation (calor [warmth], rubor [redness], tumor [mass]) involving the breast, although the warmth may be subtle and the mass may not be appreciated as something discrete. Indeed, even when a localized mass is apparent in IBC, the true extent of the disease (as shown by performing skin biopsies from the surrounding normal-appearing skin) is usually greater than is apparent on physical examination.

IBC was originally described as having an erysipeloid border. However, only a minority of cases have this component of a raised edge.

In Western countries, the frequency of IBC is low—1-2% of all breast cancers—but in some parts of the world, such as northern Africa, it is much higher, for reasons that are not known. IBC tends to occur at a younger age than LABC does. Pathologically, IBC was originally associated with the classic finding of involvement of subdermal lymphatic vessels, though this finding is not in itself diagnostic of IBC (it may occur with LABC as a secondary phenomenon).

These tumors are more likely to stain negatively by IHC for ER and PR and somewhat more likely to be positive for HER2 overexpression. In addition, both angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis appear to be increased by microvessel density or RNA-based gene expression arrays.

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