New guidelines have recommended that women with a rare aggressive breast cancer should be offered less invasive surgery.
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare sub-type of the disease with poor survival rates that is thought to affect up to 1,000 women in the UK each year.
It is a particularly aggressive and rapidly appearing type of cancer in which the breast drainage system can be disrupted by tumour cells, causing lymph to build up and cause swelling and redness.
“As treatments improve we hope that a breast conservation approach will become increasingly common”
Whilst previous guidelines recommended that a mastectomy was always required, the new recommendations encourage a localised, breast-conserving approach where possible.
Providing the cancer has not spread and cells surrounding the tumour are confirmed as non-cancerous, there is no evidence that breast conservation surgery is any less safe than a mastectomy, the authors of the guidance.
The new guidelines, published in the British Journal of Cancer, also represent the first time that a group of UK clinicians and researchers have agreed a specific definition of inflammatory breast cancer.
It is hoped that this will offer clarity to clinicians, reducing possible delays in reaching a diagnosis at what is already a difficult and distressing time for patients.
The guidelines were presented today at the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Symposium in Birmingham.
They were developed by the UK Inflammatory Breast Cancer Working Group with support from charities.
Dr Daniel Rea, consultant in medical oncology at Birmingham University and clinical lead for the working group, said the new guidelines represented a “real step forward”.
“These new recommendations will allow some inflammatory breast cancer patients to be spared a more invasive mastectomy, and as treatments improve we hope that a breast conservation approach will become increasingly common,” he said.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “These desperately-needed guidelines will lead mean a better future for women with inflammatory breast cancer.
“We look forward to further work in this area that will give women with inflammatory breast cancer new options,” she added.