Our dedicated Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program focuses on inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) treatment and research. Our specialists work together, and with you, to create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your unique medical needs.
At Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women Cancer Center's Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers Breast Oncology Program, our team of experts provides compassionate and comprehensive care for women with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC).
Our specialized program in IBC — the only program of its kind in the Northeast — includes breast cancer surgeons, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists who have specific expertise in treating IBC. Our dedicated research program includes research scientists and clinicians who meet regularly to discuss challenging cases and together, develop research programs to address these challenges. This enables us to provide a personalized approach to care for our patients diagnosed with IBC.
Individuals calling our IBC program who suspect or have been told they have IBC are contacted by our IBC nurses within 24 hours. If you have not been diagnosed yet, our IBC specialists work quickly to determine whether your symptoms are IBC, or something else (such as a breast infection). If a diagnosis of IBC is determined, your dedicated team of IBC clinicians will work together to create and oversee a personalized treatment plan, based on your specific disease.
IBC nurses and staff will connect you with support services both on-site and in your community. Through this coordinated approach, your entire clinical team will work with you to explore every option to effectively treat your IBC, and support you every step of the way.
Experience affects outcomes. Our clinical team is skilled at identifying this rare and often misdiagnosed disease, ensuring that you will receive the care you need as quickly as possible. Our physician-scientists lead research efforts that are changing the understanding of the disease, and creating new options for treatment.
Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) physician-scientists are working to improve the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of IBC. Our specialists are actively involved in research, and apply the latest knowledge to patient care. We offer our patients opportunities to take part in clinical trials, investigating new, targeted therapies for IBC.
You may be eligible for other breast cancer clinical trials. Talk with your clinician about whether another breast cancer clinical trial may be right for you.
Clinical trials for early stage breast cancerClinical trials for metastatic breast cancer
We encourage our patients to participate in our tissue registry, a resource that supports basic science research of IBC and provides important information that guides treatment.
We offer patient- and family-centered care, which means you and your family are the focus of our attention. Your health care team will take the time to listen, understand your needs and preferences, and try to give you a sense of control over your life.
We understand that cancer affects more than your body. We offer support programs and resources that help you and your family cope with your illness, including complementary therapies such as massage and acupuncture.
With inflammatory breast cancer, cancer cells block the lymph vessels of the skin of the breast, causing the breast to appear red or inflamed. Unlike other types of breast cancer, IBC may be detected without a lump.
Symptoms of IBC may include:
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your physician immediately. IBC is typically diagnosed through a clinical exam, and confirmed with a breast biopsy. Prompt and accurate diagnosis and treatment is important because of the aggressive nature of the disease.
We schedule your appointment with a dedicated team of medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists as soon as possible. Our multidisciplinary team reviews all diagnostic imaging and coordinates further imaging or biopsies as needed to ensure that the best information is available for diagnosis. Prompt and accurate diagnosis is very important because IBC can spread quickly.
If a diagnosis of IBC is confirmed, the clinical team works together to develop a specialized treatment plan for you. Because IBC involves the entire breast and blood stream, the primary treatment is chemotherapy. This may include clinical trials or the option to receive standard treatments.
Once we have achieved the best response possible from chemotherapy, we often recommend surgery in the form of a mastectomy. Since IBC involves the lymphatic system — special blood channels that encompass the entire breast — a mastectomy is the only way to remove the majority of the cancer. Radiation therapy can then address any residual cancer left behind in the chest wall or lymph nodes. Sometimes additional chemotherapy or hormone therapy is also recommended.
While women with other forms of breast cancer may opt for breast reconstruction immediately following a mastectomy, we recommend that IBC patients delay reconstruction until after radiation treatment to ensure that any residual cancer cells have been eradicated.
IBC specialists coordinate your care with pharmacy, nutrition, social workers, pain management specialists and other support services to ensure that you feel as good as possible throughout your treatment.
Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) provides a wide range of support programs and resources for our patients with IBC. These programs and resources can help you and your family address issues that you may face as a result of your cancer, or its treatment. Below are some of our selected programs and services.
Counseling and Social WorkOur licensed social workers are here to help adult patients and their loved ones face the many new concerns and anxieties following a diagnosis of IBC, offering emotional support and assistance with obtaining needed resources.
Pain and Palliative CareThe Adult Palliative Care Division of the Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care Department at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center helps patients with IBC live as well as possible while facing a serious or life-threatening illness. Palliative care consultations are readily available if you are suffering from uncontrolled pain, nausea, vomiting or other symptoms, or if you have questions about how palliative treatment can help you meet your personal goals.
Friends' PlaceFriends' Place provides personal consultations to help cancer patients of all ages cope with changes in physical appearance that result from cancer treatment. Our experienced, compassionate team provides fittings for compression garments or breast prostheses, helps with wigs and other head coverings, and offers make-up and skincare advice.
Zakim Center for Integrative TherapiesIntegrative therapies, also known as complementary therapies, range from acupuncture and massage to nutritional guidance and music therapy. Patients treated at the Zakim Center credit its services with easing nausea, improving circulation, and reducing pain, stress, and anxiety associated with cancer treatment.
Nutrition ConsultationOur nutritionists are registered dietitians who can assist you in planning an optimal diet during any stage of your cancer journey, cope with any side effects you may experience, and answer your questions about the latest findings on cancer and nutrition.
Spiritual CareThrough all stages of IBC treatment and survivorship, our Spiritual Care staff is available 24 hours a day to provide emotional and spiritual support for patients and their family members.
For a full list of our support services, you can download the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center Supportive Resources brochure.
Our entire team is focused on the unique aspects of inflammatory breast cancer. You will benefit from our multidisciplinary approach, which combines the expertise of physicians from medical, surgical and radiation oncology as well as radiology and pathology. At your first visit you'll meet with several specialists who will evaluate and plan your treatment, and coordinate your care throughout your time with us.
Your care team may include medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists; pathologists; radiologists; pharmacists; and oncology nurses.
Other staff members, such as social workers and nutritionists, may also provide care and support.
Beth Overmoyer, MD, Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program Director, Medical Oncology
Faina Nakhlis, MD, Surgery
Jennifer Bellon, MD, Radiation Oncology
Kornelia Polyak, MD, PhD, Medical Oncology / Molecular and Cellular Research
Eren Yeh, MD, Diagnostic Radiology
Susan Lester, MD, PhD, Chief, Breast Pathology
Judi Hirshfield-Bartek, RN, MS, OCN, Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program, Clinical Nurse Coordinator
Erin Hagemeister, RN, BSN, Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program
The Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program at the Breast Oncology Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center offers highly specialized evaluation and care for patients with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer that is frequently difficult to detect and often presents at an advanced stage.
To refer a patient for diagnosis and treatment for inflammatory breast cancer, call 877-332-4294.
Our medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists work together in treating patients with IBC, most often with chemotherapy followed by surgery and state-of-the-art radiation therapy. By employing a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach, patients are able to begin treatment quickly, which is essential given the aggressive nature of the disease.
Patients also have access to multiple clinical trials, designed specifically to improve therapies for IBC. A range of trials is available, including studies for newly diagnosed patients, for patients who present with metastatic disease or local-regional disease recurrence, and for patients who did not achieve a complete pathologic response at mastectomy following initial chemotherapy.
We offer patients opportunities to take part in clinical trials, investigating new, targeted therapies for IBC.
Patients may also be eligible for other breast cancer clinical trials. We will discuss whether another breast cancer clinical trial may be right for your patient.
Unlike other forms of breast cancer, which can be identified by a mass, IBC is more diffuse, with more lymphatic involvement that causes the breast to feel thick or heavy, and makes diagnosis more difficult.
Patients who present with redness, swelling, pain, or itchiness of the breast or thickening of the skin on the breast, with ridging or dimpling, should be referred to a specialist for evaluation and a clinical examination and biopsy to confirm diagnosis.
While IBC shares clinical similarities to mastitis, if a patient does not respond to antibiotic treatment for mastitis, a specialist should be consulted about inflammatory breast cancer.
Please refer to our Inflammatory Breast Cancer Reference Guide for Physicians.
Our researchers and clinicians are involved in clinical and basic science research to enhance our understanding of inflammatory breast cancer, develop more effective diagnostic and treatment options for patients, improve the current predicted five-year 50 percent survival rate for patients with IBC, and expand prevention strategies for women at risk for the disease.
In addition, through the acquisition of tissue samples from IBC patients, our team is investigating the biology of the disease, including its genetic associations.
For more information about the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Program, call 617-632-4024
To make an appointment, call 877-442-3324.
You may schedule your first appointment for as soon as the next day. After scheduling, one of our nurses will call you to answer your questions and help you prepare for the appointment.
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