Treatment options for inflammatory breast cancer


Everyone is different and the treatments recommended for inflammatory breast cancer, and the order in which they’re given, may vary according to individual circumstances.

Most women with inflammatory breast cancer will have a combination of treatments that may include:

  • chemotherapy
  • surgery
  • radiotherapy
  • targeted therapies
  • hormonal therapies.

In addition, some women choose to use complementary therapies or may be involved in a clinical trial.

The treatment plan may need to be adjusted depending on how the cancer responds to the different treatments.

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As there’s typically no lump with inflammatory breast cancer, treatment usually starts with chemotherapy rather than surgery. Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells that may be in the breast or other parts of the body but cannot be detected with routine tests. Chemotherapy may be used with other breast cancer treatments.

Breast surgery

Breast surgery is used to treat inflammatory breast cancer if the cancer responds well to chemotherapy – that is, if almost all the initial signs and symptoms disappear after chemotherapy.

Surgery for inflammatory breast cancer usually involves complete removal of the breast (mastectomy) and removal of lymph nodes from the armpit.

Breast reconstruction may be possible once all initial treatment has been completed but this should be discussed with the treating doctors.


Radiotherapy is almost always used during treatment for inflammatory breast cancer. Radiotherapy may be used before or after surgery or instead of surgery, depending on how the cancer has responded to chemotherapy. It may also be directed to the lymph nodes in the armpit and in the base of the neck.

Targeted therapies

Targeted therapies (sometimes called targeted therapies) are drugs that stop the growth of particular types of cancer cells. Targeted therapies are only suitable for some women. They may be used alongside other breast cancer treatments for inflammatory breast cancer.

Hormonal therapies

Hormonal therapies are drugs used to treat women who have hormone receptors on their breast cancer cells. Hormonal therapies may be used alone or with other breast cancer treatments for inflammatory breast cancer.