Screening of Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Executive Summary

Inflammatory breast cancer screening is similar to other types of breast cancer. It is integrated by determining the initial signs and symptoms related to the disease. Standard screening techniques for inflammatory breast cancer include mammography, digital mammography, ultrasound and magnetic resonance, and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The screening recommendations involve the recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force implicating the conduction of mammography every two years among women 50 to 74 years of age. ACS recommends that women of the age group 40-44 have the option to start yearly mammography. Breast self-examination has resulted in lowering the death rates. Hence, breast examinations between regular mammograms are also recommended as a screening method for inflammatory breast cancer.

Screening Methods for Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Screening of Inflammatory Breast Cancer helps to look for cancer before you have any signs or symptoms ​1​. The goals of cancer screening are to:

  • Decrease the number of people dying from the disease or eliminate deaths from cancer altogether
  • Lower the number of people who develop the disease
  • Identify people with a greater risk of developing a particular type of cancer who needs screening more regularly due to genetic mutations or diseases.

The screening methods for inflammatory breast cancer are similar to those used for other types of breast cancer.

Screening Test for Inflammatory Breast Cancer


Mammography is the best way for doctors to screen women for breast cancer, as it has lowered the deaths from this cancer ​2​. Like any other medical test, mammography also involves risks, like the chances of additional testing and anxiety if the test falsely shows a suspicious finding, known as a ‘false-positive result. About 10% to 15% of the time, mammography will not show existing cancer, called a false-negative result.

Digital Mammography

Digital mammography can better find breast cancers, especially in women with dense breasts. A newer form of mammogram is known as tomosynthesis or 3D mammography ​3​. It may enhance finding small cancers and reduce the need to repeat tests due to false positives. However, there is a risk of diagnosing problems in the breast that would otherwise go unnoticed and would not lead to negative consequences.

Ultrasound and Magnetic Resonance

Ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging scan are not usually used to screen for breast cancer in most women at average risk. But these tests can be helpful for women having a very high risk of breast cancer, as in those with dense breast tissue, or when a lump or mass is found during a breast examination. 

According to the American Cancer Society, women who have BRCA gene mutations, have a solid family history of breast cancer, or have prior radiation therapy to the chest should consider mammography and MRI each year ​4​.


MRI can probably be better than mammography and ultrasound to find a small mass in a woman’s breast, particularly for women with very dense breast tissue. However, an MRI has a greater rate of false-positive test results, resulting in more surgeries, biopsies, and other tests that can lead to over diagnosis. Additionally, an MRI does not show calcifications which are tiny spots of calcium found on a mammogram. Calcifications can be an indication of non-invasive breast cancer. However, MRI can still be used to detect non-invasive breast cancer.

Also Read: Breast Self Examination at Home

Screening Recommendations 

Each woman should talk to their doctor about how frequently they should receive screening and which tests are most accurate.

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests that women ages 50 to 74 should have mammography every two years. They indicate that mammography is considered in women ages 40 to 49 after estimating the benefits and risks of the test with a doctor ​5​.
  • ACS recommends that women ages 40 to 44 have the option to start yearly mammography. They suggest that women ages 45 to 54 receive mammography every year. Women 55 and older can change to having a mammogram every two years or continue yearly screening if they choose.

Screening may be recommended earlier and more often than the schedules mentioned above for women at greater risk of developing breast cancer. 

At last, although breast self-examination has not been shown to lower deaths from breast cancer, women need to become familiar with their breasts to notice any changes and inform their doctor. Cancers that grow more quickly are often found through breast examinations in between regular mammograms.


  1. 1.
    Dawood S, Merajver SD, Viens P, et al. International expert panel on inflammatory breast cancer: consensus statement for standardized diagnosis and treatment. Annals of Oncology. Published online March 2011:515-523. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdq345
  2. 2.
    Lee K, Chung S, Yang I, et al. Inflammatory breast cancer: imaging findings. Clin Imaging. 2005;29(1):22-25.
  3. 3.
    Kosus N, Kosus A, Duran M, Simavli S, Turhan N. Comparison of standard mammography with digital mammography and digital infrared thermal imaging for breast cancer screening. J Turkish German Gynecol Assoc. Published online September 1, 2010:152-157. doi:10.5152/jtgga.2010.24
  4. 4.
    Heisey R, Carroll J. Identification and management of women with a family history of breast cancer: Practical guide for clinicians. Can Fam Physician. 2016;62(10):799-803.
  5. 5.
    Siu AL. Screening for Breast Cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Ann Intern Med. Published online January 12, 2016:279. doi:10.7326/m15-2886