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Updated: Nov 29, 2022


Inflammatory breast cancer is characterized by cancer cells blocking lymphatic capillaries on the breast surface. It is a very uncommon and aggressive disease. The breast frequently appears swollen, red, or inflamed and can appear as mastitis. It represents 4% of Breast Cancers


Inflammatory breast cancer is an Invasive Carcinoma and proliferates through Derma lymphatic invasion. The cell is typically found in one of the ducts transporting breast milk to the nipple. Most inflammatory breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas; they form from cells lining the breast's milk channels before spreading outside the ducts. Inflammatory breast cancer can spread quickly, and it is important to implement treatment strategies with haste. For more detailed information on staging visit Susan G Komen. Axillary Lymph Node Dissection is used to obtain a sample of lymph node tissue for testing. During this process, doctors take lymph nodes from the armpit area near the suspicious breast. The armpit areas contain beds of lymph nodes that act that transport stations for the body's circulation fluids and substances. This disruption or removal of lymph nodes can cause lymphedema which is chronic condition of swelling. (see lymphedema)

Women who are overweight or with high BMI's are more likely to have IBC. The symptoms of IBC include pain, redness of one-third or more of the breast and thickening or pitting of the breast skin that gives it an orange peel-like appearance and sometimes the nipple can become inverted.

The treatment of IBC includes chemotherapy, which is frequently used as the first treatment to stop the invasion of cancer cells within the tissues. Most patients will have some form of mastectomy and radiation therapy, but reconstruction tends to be less common.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage is contraindicated with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, but many women benefit from other aspects of therapy such as Soft Tissue Mobilization, Strengthening ,Stretching, and Breathwork. Patients with both Axillary Lymph node dissection and radiation therapy are at a higher risk for developing lymphedema and as a result, proactive care and education is essential. Patients are also at risk for developing Axillary Web Syndrome/Cording which is a temporary but painful healing response following lymph node dissection.

Studies have highlighted that 150 minutes if exercise a week resulted in less occurrence of lymphedema in Breast Cancer patients within 6 months following of treatment. Mild or light compression garments (sleeves, bra's tank tops, camisoles) are a helpful tool in the prevention of swelling in the upper extremity and chest wall.

As with all Cancer rehabilitation, it is important to address issues related to posture, core strength, and upper extremity range of motion, strength, and self-care

winicour, jodi. (n.d.). Breast Cancer Rehabilitation. Breast Cancer Rehabilitation . Retrieved 2022, from


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