Background: Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare and aggressive subtype. This study analyzes the patterns of failure in patients with IBC treated at our institution. Methods: We retrospectively analyzed the records of 227 women with IBC presenting between 1997 and 2011. Survival analysis was used to calculate overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival. Competing risk analysis was used to calculate locoregional recurrence (LRR). Results: A total of 173 patients had locoregional-only disease at presentation (non-MET). Median follow-up in the surviving patients was 3.3 years. Overall, 132 (76.3 %) patients received trimodality therapy with chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy. Three-year OS was 73.1 % [95 % confidence interval (CI) 64.9–82.4]. Cumulative LRR was 10.1, 16.9, and 21.3 % at 1, 2, and 3 years, respectively. No variable was significantly associated with LRR. Fifty-four patients had metastatic disease at presentation (MET). Median follow-up in the surviving patients was 2.6 years. Three-year OS was 44.3 % (95 % CI 31.4–62.5). Twenty-four (44.4 %) patients received non-palliative local therapy (radiotherapy and/or surgery). For these patients, median OS after local therapy was 2 years. Excluding six patients who received local therapy for symptom palliation, the crude incidence of locoregional progression or recurrence (LRPR) was 17 % (4/24) for those who received local therapy compared with 57 % (13/23) for those who did not. Conclusions: For non-MET patients, LRR remains a problem despite trimodality therapy. More aggressive treatment is warranted. For MET patients, nearly 60 % have LRPR with systemic therapy alone. Local therapy should be considered in the setting of metastatic disease to prevent potential morbidity of progressive local disease.
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