Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma is among the most common of all types of breast cancers. Every 8 of the 10 cases of breast cancer in women are that of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. This type of breast cancer is also known as Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma because it can infiltrate to other parts of the body.

The American Cancer Society reports that most of the women out of the 180,000 diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States each year actually have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. What are the causes and symptoms of this cancer? How can it be treated?

What Is Invasive Ductal Carcinoma?


Invasive Ductal Carcinoma is the name given to the type of cancer that has infiltrated to the healthy breast tissues after having infected the milk ducts present in the breast. The term “invasive” relates to the invading nature of this cancer type while “Ductal” refers to the milk ducts from where this cancer originates. These ducts are responsible for carrying the milk to the nipples from the lobules that produce milk. “Carcinoma” is the medical name given to any cancer that affects the tissues covering a major organ which in this case is the breast. Because of its invasive nature, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma or IDC can start affecting the lymph nodes if not treated at an earlier stage.

Risk Factors

Even though breast cancer is not limited to a particular age group, older women are more at risk for developing Invasive Ductal Carcinoma than young women. American Cancer Society notes that almost two-thirds of the patients of invasive breast cancer are women of ages older than 55. Cases of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma are observed in men as well.

Symptoms of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma does not exhibit many clear symptoms in the initial stages. You can however, feel a lump developing in your breast, which is the first sign of this type of invasive breast cancer. An abnormal finding on a mammogram is also among the indicators that can point towards the presence of IDC in a woman. The American Cancer Society identifies the following symptoms as early warning signs of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and other types of breast cancers.

  • Pain in the breast
  • Abnormal swelling of the breast
  • Irritation or dimpling of the skin
  • Pain felt in the nipples
  • Formation of a lump in the area under the armpit
  • Thickening and reddening of the skin near the breast or the nipple
  • Discharge of a liquid other than breast milk from the nipple

Diagnosis of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma can be diagnosed through the use of a number of imaging tests that include mammography, ultrasound and Breast MRI. A physical examination might also be conducted by doctors for diagnosing this type of cancer. A biopsy is usually performed if any abnormality is observed during the physical exam or the imaging tests.

Treatment of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

Treatment of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma is carried out in two different ways. The first one is local treatment in which the primary target is the tumor and the areas present around it while the second one is systemic treatment in which the cancer cells that have spread to other parts of the body are targeted and destroyed.

1. Local Treatment

The local treatment of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma is further divided in to two types; surgery and radiation therapy.


Surgery is the most effective method of treatment used for Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. It involves complete removal of the tumor by surgically slicing off all or some part of the breast. The surgical procedures that are utilized by doctors for removing the breast tumor fall in two broad categories; lumpectomy, in which only the tumor is removed and mastectomy in which some part or the entire breast is also removed along with the tumor.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy involves the use of high energy beams of light for disposing off any remaining cells of cancer in the breast after surgery. Doctors recommend this treatment method to patients as it decreases the chance of the cancer coming back. There are three types of radiation therapy that can be used for treating Invasive DuctalCarcinoma; external beam radiation, internal partial-breast irradiation and external partial-breast irradiation.

2. Systemic Treatment

The systemic treatment of IDC is also of two types; chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.


In chemotherapy, the patients are given medications to eliminate the cancer cells that might have remained in the body even after surgery or radiation therapy. The medicines given in chemotherapy target the cells of Invasive DuctalCarcinoma wherever they are present in the body. These medications however are very strong in nature and can affect other healthy parts of the body too. This is why chemotherapy is advised only to those patients who had a very large tumor or have a higher risk of recurrence.

Hormonal Therapy

In Hormonal therapy, the patients are given anti-estrogen medications to stop the hormone receptors of Invasive DuctalCarcinoma cells from receiving estrogen and multiplying in number. The medicines given in hormonal therapy reduce the level of estrogen in the body and thus prevent the cancer cells from growing. Aromatese Inhibitors and Selective estrogen-receptor response modulators (SERMs) are the two most common types of medications prescribed to the patients of IDC in hormonal therapy. Estrogen-receptor downregulators (ERDs) and ovarian shutdown are other less commonly used medications for hormonal therapy.

Follow-up Care of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

Patients of Invasive DuctalCarcinoma have to remain in touch with their doctors even after surgery and chemotherapy sessions are over. The doctor is going to give you a schedule of visits for following-up on the treatment that you have received. Depending on what type of surgery was used for treating your IDC and which medications you have been asked to take, the doctor will conductphysical exams and may ask you to have mammograms after every 4 to 6 weeks for up to five years. Tests for checking the strength of bones are also advised by doctors for patients that are taking Aromatese Inhibitors as part of their hormonal therapy.

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