Though they are not specific types of tumors, there are some special forms of breast cancer. These include inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), Paget disease of the breast (Paget disease of the nipple) and metaplastic breast cancer and are discussed below.
Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare, but aggressive form of locally advanced breast cancer. It is called inflammatory breast cancer because its main symptoms are swelling (inflammation) and redness of the breast. About one to five percent of breast cancers are IBC [17-19].
IBC tumors are often estrogen receptor-negative and HER2/neu-positive. Because these breast cancers are aggressive, most women with IBC have positive lymph nodes and 25 to 30 percent have metastasis when they are diagnosed . IBC also tends to have a higher proliferation rate than other breast cancers .
The median age of diagnosis of IBC is slightly younger than the age of diagnosis of other breast cancers (57 versus 61) [19-21]. African-American women may be somewhat more likely than white women to be diagnosed with IBC .
Although some viral emails suggest that IBC is a new form of breast cancer, it was first identified in the 1800’s .
Symptoms of IBC include :
If you notice any of these changes, see your health care provider.
With other forms of breast cancer, symptoms may not occur for years. However, with IBC, symptoms tend to arise within weeks or months. Because of the frequent lack of a breast lump and symptoms such as redness and swelling, IBC may first be mistaken for an infection. IBC is often diagnosed clinically with a tissue biopsy after symptoms do not improve with a course of antibiotics. Tell your health care provider if the symptoms last longer than a week after starting antibiotics. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
Routine mammography can miss IBC because of its rapid onset. IBC can also be hard to see on a mammogram because it is often spread throughout the breast or may only show up as a sign of inflammation (such as skin thickening) . In some cases, skin changes (listed above) or a lump (if one is present) may be noted during a clinical breast exam.
With treatment, up to 65 percent of those with IBC will live for five years after diagnosis and about 35 percent will have no signs of breast cancer 10 years after diagnosis [22-26]. Although these rates are not as high as for other breast cancers, new treatments continue to improve survival.
Learn about treatment for IBC.
Paget disease of the breast (Paget disease of the nipple) is a rare cancer in the skin of the nipple or in the skin closely surrounding the nipple. It is usually, but not always, found with an underlying breast cancer. In these cases, the tumor grows from underneath the nipple and breaks out onto the skin surface of the nipple. Paget disease of the breast can be found with invasive breast cancer or DCIS. About one to three percent of breast cancers are Paget disease of the breast [17-19].
Symptoms include itching, burning, redness and scaling of the skin on the nipple and areola. There may also be a bloody discharge from the nipple, and the nipple may appear flattened against the breast .
Paget disease of the breast can be diagnosed from a biopsy of the nipple skin and the tissue just below the skin (called a skin biopsy or a punch biopsy). Or, Paget disease of the breast may be found when an underlying breast cancer is diagnosed. Treatment and prognosis depend on the underlying cancer .
Metaplastic breast cancer is rare, accounting for fewer than five percent of all invasive breast cancers . Compared to more common types of breast cancer, metaplastic tumors tend to be larger, have a higher tumor grade and be estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative and HER2/neu receptor-negative (often called triple negative) [17,27-28].
Because metaplastic tumor cells have many forms, these cancers can be hard to diagnose and are often confused with other uncommon breast tumors. It is best to have the pathology slides sent out for review to confirm the diagnosis. You can request that your health care provider send the slides out for review or you may wish to get a second opinion for confirmation.
Learn more about breast pathology practices.
Learn more about getting a second opinion.
Most cancers that occur in the breast are breast cancers (breast carcinomas). In rare cases, other types of cancer such as lymphomas (cancer of the lymph system) and sarcomas (cancer of the soft tissues) can occur in the breast. Rarely, cancers from other sites can metastasize (spread) to the breast and mimic breast cancers.
Other types of tumors in the breast can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Because these cancers are not carcinomas, they are treated differently and have different risk profiles than breast cancer.
For more information on lymphomas and benign and malignant phyllodes tumors, visit the National Cancer Institute's website.
Komen Support Resources
Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Facts for Life: Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Chronicals of Hope, Ute Bankamp
Facts for Life: Paget's Disease of the Nipple
How has having breast cancer changed your outlook?