The current status of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) among U.S. females was reviewed with the use of data abstracted from medical records of patients diagnosed with breast cancer between 1975 and 1981 in nine geographic areas covered by the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program. Patients were selected on the basis of reported clinical and pathologic features of IBC and were divided into 3 groups: I) both clinical and pathologic features of IBC; II) clinical features without pathologic confirmation; and III) pathologic evidence only. The age distribution of pathologically defined IBC, in general, showed younger ages than those for other breast cancers in both the white and black populations. Further analysis was restricted to white females due to the relatively small numbers of black and other nonwhite patients with IBC. The disease presentations of both clinically and pathologically defined IBC were similar with regard to the likelihood of the presence of metastases at initial staging. Survival was evaluated by comparison of patients with nonmetastatic (MO) disease. Three years after diagnosis, the relative survival rates among patients in groups I, II, and III were observed to be 34, 60, and 52%, respectively. Survival of patients with all other types of breast cancer was 90% at 3 years. The management of IBC appeared to differ from the treatment of other forms of breast cancer; chemotherapy was given more frequently as the first course of cancer-directed therapy in white SEER females with evidence of MO IBC compared with the group with MO non-IBC. When all possible combinations of initial therapy were considered, the treatment for IBC was more variable than the treatment for non-IBC.