The causes of inflammatory breast cancer are unclear. Despite its name, inflammatory breast cancer is not actually caused by inflammation. Instead, the term “inflammatory” refers to the appearance of the breasts. The most common signs and symptoms of the condition – redness, swelling and changes in skin texture – are very similar to those that usually accompany an infection, injury or irritation that leads to increased blood flow and the buildup of white blood cells in the body’s tissues (inflammation). However, when inflammatory breast cancer is present, these symptoms develop as cancer cells block lymph vessels in the breast skin.
Although the exact causes of inflammatory breast cancer are unclear, it is understood that the cancer can develop as follows:
- Inflammatory breast cancer begins with an abnormal cell that develops in a milk duct.
- Due to mutations in its DNA, the abnormal cell grows and divides at a very rapid pace.
- The resulting accumulation of cancer cells can clog the lymph vessels in the breast skin and inhibit lymphatic drainage, allowing fluids to build up within the breast.
- Sometimes, the cancerous cells metastasize, or spread, to lymph nodes, tissues and organs throughout the body.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, our clinicians and researchers are working hard to develop new screening modalities and treatment techniques. In recognition of our research advances, the National Cancer Institute has designated Moffitt a Comprehensive Cancer Center – the only one in Florida – and we continue our efforts to improve cancer survival rates and provide our patients with a better quality of life.
At Moffitt, we welcome any patient who is concerned about breast cancer risk or would like to have symptoms evaluated. We are proud to offer our patients a comprehensive breast program where they can receive advice, treatment, support and multiple expert opinions in a single, convenient location.