Chemotherapy for Inflammatory Breast Cancer

For inflammatory breast cancer, chemotherapy is commonly recommended as the initial form of treatment, followed by surgery and radiation therapy, and possibly hormone therapy. That’s because this aggressive and diffuse form of cancer is usually detected at an advanced stage, often after it has invaded the lymph nodes, breast skin and chest wall. Therefore, if surgery were to be performed first, rogue cancer cells could potentially be left behind. Those cells could then continue to grow and possibly form new tumors. By systemically targeting and destroying widespread and rapidly dividing cancer cells, chemotherapy can not only shrink tumors to make them operable, but also reduce the likelihood of the spread of cancer and recurrence.

Chemo for inflammatory breast cancer is usually delivered through the bloodstream via injection into a vein or taken by mouth in pill or capsule form. In this way, the drugs can reach cancer cells located in various areas throughout the body. During treatment, a patient may receive one or more drugs, either individually or in combination. Some chemotherapy drugs that have been shown to improve outcomes for patients with inflammatory breast cancer include:

  • Anthracyclines, such as doxorubicin and epirubicin

  • Taxanes, such as pacilitaxel and docetaxel

  • Drug combinations, such as doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide followed by paclitaxel or docetaxel

  • New drugs and drug combinations currently under study in clinical trials

Regardless of the specific drugs prescribed, chemotherapy is typically administered in cycles, with each treatment session followed by one or more off days. Each patient’s schedule will vary depending on the medications prescribed and other individual factors. Usually, an entire course of chemotherapy takes three to six months to complete, and may be repeated if necessary.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, the multispecialty team of experts in our Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program takes a multimodal approach to inflammatory breast cancer treatment. We work closely with each patient to determine the most appropriate course of chemotherapy, which is highly individualized to reflect the specifics of his or her diagnosis. As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, we also offer our patients access to promising clinical trials through which we are evaluating groundbreaking new treatments for inflammatory breast cancer. Additionally, our breast cancer oncologists are also fertility experts who can make it possible for a woman to receive carefully timed chemotherapy during pregnancy or help her retain her fertility and breastfeeding abilities for future childbearing.

Chemotherapy for inflammatory breast cancer is available at all Moffitt locations. If you’d like to learn more, we provide consultations with or without referrals. Call 1-888-MOFFITT or complete a new patient registration form online.