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Open Access Research article

Short- and long-term cause-specific survival of patients with inflammatory breast cancer

Patricia Tai1*, Edward Yu2, Ross Shiels1, Juan Pacella1, Kurian Jones1, Evgeny Sadikov1 and Shazia Mahmood1

Author Affiliations

1 University of Saskatchewan, Faculty of Medicine, Saskatoon; Department of Radiation Oncology, Regina, Canada

2 Division of Radiation Oncology, Department of Oncology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

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BMC Cancer 2005, 5:137  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-5-137

Published: 22 October 2005



Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) had been perceived to have a poor prognosis. Oncologists were not enthusiastic in the past to give aggressive treatment. Single institution studies tend to have small patient numbers and limited years of follow-up. Most studies do not report 10-, 15- or 20-year results.


Data was obtained from the population-based database of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program of the National Cancer Institute from 1975–1995 using SEER*Stat5.0 software. This period of 21 years was divided into 7 periods of 3 years each. The years were chosen so that there was adequate follow-up information to 2000. ICD-O-2 histology 8530/3 was used to define IBC. The lognormal model was used for statistical analysis.


A total of 1684 patients were analyzed, of which 84% were white, 11% were African Americans, and 5% belonged to other races. Age distribution was < 30 years in 1%, 30–40 in 11%, 40–50 in 22%, 50–60 in 24%, 60–70 in 21%, and > 70 in 21%. The lognormal model was validated for 1975–77 and for 1978–80, since the 10-, 15- and 20-year cause-specific survival (CSS) rates, could be calculated using the Kaplan-Meier method with data available in 2000. The data were then used to estimate the 10-, 15- and 20-year CSS rates for the more recent years, and to study the trend of improvement in survival. There were increasing incidences of IBC: 134 patients in the 1975–77 period to 416 patients in the 1993–95 period. The corresponding 20-year CSS increased from 9% to 20% respectively with standard errors of less than 4%.


The improvement of survival during the study period may be due to introduction of more aggressive treatments. However, there seem to be no further increase of long-term CSS, which should encourage oncologists to find even more effective treatments. Because of small numbers of patients, randomized studies will be difficult to conduct. The SEER population-based database will yield the best possible estimate of the trend in improvement of survival for patients with IBC.