Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

What is invasive ductal carcinoma?

As the most common type of breast cancer, invasive ductal carcinoma accounts for approximately 80% of all breast cancers. Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is cancer that has originated in the milk ducts and has spread to surrounding breast tissue. If untreated, IDC can spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body as well.

What are the signs and symptoms of IDC?

In earlier stages, IDC may not cause any symptoms and is consequently often found on screening mammograms during yearly checkups. However, in some cases, IDC can exhibit the following signs:

  • Swelling of the breast
  • Breast pain or tenderness
  • A lump in the underarm
  • Irregular nipple discharge
  • Skin irregularities, such as irritation or dimpling
  • Nipple pain or inversion
  • Nipple skin irregularities, such as redness or thickening

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or you have any of these breast cancer risk factors, you should contact your physician.

How is invasive ductal carcinoma diagnosed?

Upon discovering an abnormality on a physical exam or a routine screening mammogram, your physician will likely proceed with more advanced mammogram imaging. If the abnormality is still present on the new mammogram images, then your physician will proceed with additional testing:

  • Ultrasound
  • Breast MRI
  • Biopsy
    • Fine needle aspiration biopsy
    • Core needle biopsy
    • Incisional biopsy
    • Excisional biopsy

These tests and biopsies will be used to help your physician determine the type and stage of your breast cancer. To understand the stage of IDC, your physician will consider the size of the tumor and if the tumor has spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Depending on if your IDC has spread to other body parts, your physician may run additional tests including a bone scan, CT or MRI, or a PET/CT scan of your body, to determine where the cancer has spread.

How is IDC treated at Baptist?

Each IDC patient is unique, and a physician will need to devise a personalized treatment plan for your specific IDC diagnosis. Depending on if your IDC has spread to another part of your body, you will receive either local or systemic IDC treatment.

Local IDC Treatment

If your cancer has not spread to other body parts, your physician will likely pursue a local IDC treatment plan, which may include both surgery and radiation therapy. Depending on the stage of your IDC, your physician may also treat your lymph nodes as part of your treatment plan.

IDC Surgical Options

  • Lumpectomy
  • Mastectomy (partial, simple, or modified radical mastectomies)
  • Sentinel lymph node dissection*
  • Axillary lymph node dissection**

Radiation Therapy Treatment Options

  • External beam radiation
  • Internal partial-breast irradiation
  • External partial-breast irradiation

Systemic IDC Treatment

If your physician is pursuing a systemic IDC treatment plan, this plan generally will include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and possibly some targeted therapies too. This will treat the whole body for cancer and not just the breast tissue.

Chemotherapy treatment involves taking anti-cancer medication via an injection or orally as a pill. Chemo treatment usually uses more than one drug to damage the cancerous cells.

If your IDC tested positive for hormone receptors, then your physician will likely recommend hormone therapy. During hormone therapy, certain medications will be used to lower the amount of estrogen and progesterone in your body using hormone blockers.

*In sentinel lymph node dissection, the surgeon will locate the sentinel (first) lymph node. Since this is the most likely lymph node to be affected by IDC, the surgeon removes this and the closest lymph nodes for analysis by a pathologist to determine if the cancer has spread.

**Axillary lymph node dissection is the removal of a group of lymph nodes under the arm. This procedure differs from sentinel lymph node dissection because there is a greater risk for developing lymphedema, swelling caused by the buildup of lymph fluid.