Background: Controversy exists as to the treatment regimen necessary to best provide optimal local control for inflammatory breast carcinoma (IBC). This study was conducted to determine if mastectomy combined with radiotherapy offered any advantages over radiotherapy alone in patients with IBC who had been treated with doxorubicin-based combination chemotherapy.
Methods: A retrospective review of 178 women treated for IBC on doxorubicin-based multimodality therapy protocols between January 1974 and September 1993 was performed. Clinical and histologic response to treatment, time to local recurrence, survival, and ultimate control of local disease were analyzed. Kaplan-Meier analysis was used to examine survival and relapse times, and Fisher's exact test was used to test differences in treatment outcomes. Significance was determined at p < or = 0.05.
Results: Median follow-up was 89 months (range 22 to 223 months). Locoregional disease persisted in seven patients and recurred in 44 patients who had been rendered disease free at a median time of 10 months. The mortality rate after a local recurrence (LR) was 98%, and all patients but one with LR developed systemic metastases. Response to induction chemotherapy influenced the incidence of LR, and the amount of residual disease found on histologic examination of mastectomy specimens was highly prognostic for local failure. Patients who underwent mastectomy in addition to radiotherapy had a lower incidence of LR than did patients who received radiotherapy alone (16.3% vs. 35.7%, p = 0.015).
Conclusions: The addition of mastectomy to combination chemotherapy plus radiotherapy improved local control in patients with IBC. The addition of mastectomy to chemotherapy plus radiotherapy improved distant disease-free and overall survival in patients with a clinical complete or partial response to induction chemotherapy. Patients who had no significant response to induction chemotherapy received no survival or local disease-control benefit from the addition of mastectomy to their treatment regimen. These patients should be considered for entry into clinical trials of new treatment regimens.