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Inflammatory breast cancer – causes, side effects and treatments at

Monday, May 07, 2018 by

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare and aggressive form of invasive breast carcinoma. It accounts for 0.5 to two percent of invasive breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S.

In IBC, the breast is enlarged, warm, tender, the skin is thickened, with a “peau d’orange” appearance (resembling an orange peel).

The condition may also show a flattening, reddening, crusting, blistering, or retraction of the nipple.

If IBC is suspected, one or more of the following imaging tests may be done:

  • Breast ultrasound
  • CT (computed tomography) scan
  • Mammogram
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan
  • PET (positron emission tomography) scan


Known symptoms and risk factors for inflammatory breast cancer

IBC can change the appearance of the breasts. This change can occur suddenly. An early sign of IBC is the appearance of red, pink or purple patches on the breast. The discoloration may resemble a bruise, but breast redness is a classic symptom of IBC and must not be ignored.

Patients also describe a tender, firm or enlarged breast, or itching breast. The affected breast may appear noticeably larger than the other breast or feel heavy and hard. It is also typically warm and thickened, with the skin dimpling (peau d’orange), which is another hallmark symptom of IBC. The nipple also becomes flattened, reddened, and retracted, with crusting and blistering.

Some also report swollen lymph nodes or pain depending on the location and extent of the metastasis.

Early diagnosis is extremely important as the onset of symptoms typically occurs within several weeks to months.

Body systems harmed by inflammatory breast cancer

IBC primarily affects the breasts, with secondary physical issues that may occur if left untreated, such as:

  • Inflamed lung tissue
  • Heart damage
  • Secondary cancers

Food items or nutrients that may prevent inflammatory breast cancer

Healthy eating habits can help minimize the occurrence of breast cancers. Here are some of the best foods that help keep breast cancers at bay:

  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli sprouts
  • Eggs
  • Lentils
  • Mushrooms
  • Pomegranates
  • Rye bread
  • Salmon
  • Spinach
  • Walnuts
  • Whole grains

The following nutrients are vital for fighting off cancer:

  • Carotenoids — Found in dark yellow, orange, and green vegetables and fruits
  • Flavanoids — Found in most fruits and vegetables
  • Indoles — Abundant in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts
  • Isoflavones — Found in soybeans, legumes, and flaxseeds
  • Isothiocyanates — Found in mustard, horseradish, and cruciferous vegetables
  • Organo-sulfides — Abundant in garlic, onion, leeks, shallots, and cruciferous vegetables
  • Phenolic compounds — Found in garlic, green tea, soybeans, cereal grains, cruciferous vegetables, and flaxseeds

Treatments, management plans for inflammatory breast cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer has a tendency to metastasize at an early stage. Chemo or radiation therapy to shrink the tumor, followed by surgery, are the primary treatments for IBC.

Help your body recover during cancer therapy with the following diet tips:

  • Focus on nutrients — Choose a balanced diet consisting of food groups like fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, meats/eggs and dairy products.
  • Get enough calories — Eating regularly throughout the day instead of skipping meals is a good way to ensure you get enough calories for your body’s energy supply. Small-portioned meals five to six times a day typically work well for a balanced amount of calories.
  • Stock up on protein  Protein helps maintain lean body mass/muscle. Protein is mainly found in meat, poultry, eggs, fish, seafood, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, soy and dairy products.
  • Stay hydrated — Drinking clean water promotes overall health. Aim for at least two to three liters of fluid per day (about 66 ounces to 99 ounces) mostly from caffeine-free fluids.

Where to learn more


Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and aggressive form of invasive breast carcinoma. It changes the appearance of the breasts to become enlarged, discolored, hard, with skin dimpling (resembling an orange peel).

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