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Before Surgery for Inflammatory Breast Cancer: Chemotherapy and Targeted Therapy

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Many studies have shown that giving chemotherapy — and possibly targeted therapy — before surgery for inflammatory breast cancer is better than operating right away. Giving chemotherapy first helps shrink the cancer, bring down swelling, and turn the inflamed breast skin back to normal. As a result, it will be easier for your surgeon to operate, and your incisions are likely to heal better.


You likely will be treated with medications known as anthracyclines, such as Adriamycin (chemical name: doxorubicin) or Ellence (chemical name: epirubicin). These medications may be combined with another type of chemotherapy called taxanes, which include Taxol (chemical name: paclitaxel), Taxotere (chemical name: docetaxel), and Abraxane (chemical name: albumin-bound or nab-paclitaxel).

For more information about chemotherapy treatment and its side effects, please visit the Chemotherapy section.

Targeted therapy

If your tissue sample tested positive for HER2 receptors, then you also will be treated with Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab) before surgery, in addition to having chemotherapy.

Some early research suggests that another HER2-targeted medicine called Tykerb (chemical name: lapatinib) may be useful in treating HER2-positive inflammatory breast cancer. Tykerb blocks the effect of the HER2 protein from inside the cell, slowing or stopping cell growth. (Herceptin blocks the growth-promoting effects of HER2 at the cell surface.) Studies are now under way to find out whether Tykerb may be an effective treatment for IBC, used alone or along with the chemotherapy medication Taxol.

For more information about these targeted therapies and their side effects, please visit the Targeted Therapy section.

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