Inflammatory breast cancer surgery may be recommended after a patient undergoes a course of chemotherapy, and possibly radiation, to target the cancer cells and reduce the associated swelling and inflammation. Following this pre-surgical treatment, a physician will typically order one or more imaging scans to evaluate how well the cancer responded. If the cancerous areas have shrunk or disappeared and the inflammation has subsided (and sometimes even if they have not), a surgeon may recommend proceeding with a modified radical mastectomy and axillary lymph node dissection. During this surgical session, the entire affected breast and some of the lymph nodes under the adjacent arm will be removed.
Many experts believe that a modified radical mastectomy is more appropriate for treating inflammatory breast cancer than breast-conserving surgery for several reasons, most notably because:
- This aggressive form of breast cancer typically progresses very rapidly.
- The condition is often detected in an advanced stage.
- The cancer typically does not form a distinct lump or mass, so a lumpectomy is not possible. Instead, an entire breast and the surrounding lymph nodes will likely have to be removed in order to address all or most of the cancer.
In the majority of cases, inflammatory breast cancer is treated through a multi-modal approach that incorporates pre-surgical chemotherapy, a mastectomy and post-mastectomy radiation therapy, which is administered to the chest wall underneath the affected breast. If a woman chooses to undergo breast reconstruction surgery, her treatment sequence can vary based on the type of reconstruction to be performed. For instance, if implants will be used, radiation therapy may be delayed until after the reconstruction surgery is completed. Conversely, if a woman’s own tissue will be used, it is usually preferable to administer radiation therapy prior to the reconstruction surgery.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, our breast cancer patients have access to an outstanding team of specialists who provide all aspects of cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and support in a single, convenient location. Each patient receives the benefit of multiple expert opinions, which are discussed in detail during a weekly tumor board review and incorporated into a customized treatment plan. When inflammatory breast cancer surgery is appropriate, our patients are treated by experienced, fellowship-trained surgeons who perform a high number of procedures and have developed extensive expertise in highly refined techniques, including breast reconstruction.