Women Living Longer with Inflammatory Breast Cancer Despite Rise in Incidence

Women Living Longer with Inflammatory Breast Cancer Despite Rise in Incidence in the 1990s

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute has recently published an article reporting that although the incidence of inflammatory breast cancer rose during the 1990s, survival rates improved modestly.

Breast cancer is a malignancy associated with the tissues of the breast.

Inflammatory breast cancer occurs when the cancer cells block the lymph vessels of the skin. This often causes the skin of breast to become red and inflamed and may include a pitting appearance of the skin known as peau d orange (similar to the skin of an orange). Current treatment options for inflammatory breast cancer includes surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

The National Cancer Institute collects and publishes the incidence of cancer and survival information from 17 population-based cancer registries. This data covers approximately 26 percent of the U.S. population and is known as the SEER Program (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results). In this recent study researchers reviewed the survival and incidence trends for inflammatory breast cancer. Further definitions were added to the study to examine the many unique characteristics of inflammatory breast cancer. SEER results from nine different registries between 1988 and 2000 were accumulated for review. Each breast cancer case was further categorized by the extent of the disease. Inflammatory breast cancer included 3648 patients, locally advanced breast cancer patients totaled 3,636 and patients with tumors that had not spread to other surrounding tissue or structures (non-T4 breast cancer) included 172,940 women. Researchers compared the changes in the incidence rates over a 3-year period, evaluating the breast cancer subtype and the patients race. Extensive analysis was used to determine the survival differences among the various cancer subtypes and the womens race.

Results of the study found that between 1988 and 1990 and between 1997 and 1999, inflammatory breast cancer rates rose by 25 percent. However, locally advanced breast cancer rates declined by 25 percent, as did the rate of non T-4 breast cancer tumors. Racially, the rate of inflammatory breast cancer was significantly higher among black women then white women. Survival data showed that women diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer had a significantly poorer survival outcome when compared to women diagnosed with locally advanced breast cancer or non T-4 breast cancer. The average survival of women diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer was 2.9 years-significantly shorter than the women diagnosed with locally advanced breast cancer (6.4 years) or non T-4 breast cancer (less than 10 years). Additionally it was noted that black women diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer or locally advanced breast cancer had a poorer survival rate than white women diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer or locally advanced breast cancer. However, the possible cause for this was not explained.

Researchers concluded that throughout the 1990s the incidence of inflammatory breast cancer rose, although survival improved modestly. Significant racial differences were also noted and warrant further investigation.

Reference: Hance K, Anderson W, Devesa S. et al. Trends in Inflammatory Breast Carcinoma Incidence and Survival: The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program at the National Cancer Institute. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2005; 97: 966-975.

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