Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is the most common form of breast cancer. It starts in your milk ducts and spreads to your surrounding breast tissues. Eventually, it can spread to your lymph nodes and other areas of your body. When detected and treated early, invasive ductal carcinoma has a high survival rate.
Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) begins when abnormal cells form in your milk ducts and spread to other parts of your breast tissue. It’s the most common type of breast cancer, making up about 80% of all breast cancer cases. Invasive ductal carcinoma is also the type of breast cancer that most commonly affects men (male breast cancer). This condition is sometimes called ductal carcinoma, infiltrating ductal carcinoma or IDC breast cancer.
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Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) means that the cancer cells are still contained in your milk ducts. Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) means that the cancer has begun to spread to (or invade) your surrounding breast tissue.
Invasive ductal carcinoma can affect both men and women. It’s more common in people over 55, but it can occur at any age. Transwomen have a higher risk of developing breast cancer compared to cisgender men, while transmen have a lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to cisgender women.
This type of breast cancer is extremely common. Approximately eight out of 10 breast cancers are diagnosed as invasive ductal carcinomas.
Staging describes how advanced your cancer is, based on the location, size and how far it has spread. There are five stages of ductal carcinoma:
In the early stages, invasive ductal carcinoma may not cause any obvious symptoms. Some people may develop certain warning signs, including:
Experts don’t fully understand what causes invasive ductal carcinoma. Certain risk factors have been identified, however. These include:
In approximately 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases, invasive ductal carcinoma has been linked to hereditary factors. These include mutations of the breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1), breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2) and other genes such as PALB2, CHEK2 and ATM.
As the terms “invasive” and “infiltrating” suggest, the cancer has already spread to your surrounding breast tissues at the time of diagnosis. Eventually, it can spread to your lymph nodes, through your blood and other areas of your body, including your liver, lungs, bone and brain.
Your healthcare provider will perform a physical examination. In addition to feeling for lumps in your breast, they may also feel for swollen lymph nodes in your underarm area.
In most cases, invasive ductal carcinoma is found during routine mammograms. (That’s why regular screenings are so important.) If your healthcare provider thinks you may have IDC, they may order other tests, including:
There are several approaches that can be used when treating this type of breast cancer. Specific treatment depends on the size and location of your tumor, your healing capacity and your personal preferences. Invasive ductal carcinoma treatments include:
Yes. As with any cancer treatment, side effects are possible. Your specific experience depends on how advanced your tumor is, where it’s located and what type of treatment you undergo.
People who have breast cancer surgery may experience infection, blood clots or complications from anesthesia. Those who undergo chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy or immunotherapy may have:
For patients receiving anti-hormone therapy, the most common side effects are hot flashes, joint pain, weight changes, mood changes, vaginal dryness or discharge and decrease of sexual desire.
You may experience other symptoms, too. Your healthcare provider can tell you what to expect during invasive ductal carcinoma treatment.
People who undergo surgery for invasive ductal carcinoma usually recover in about two to four weeks. Healing may take longer if lymph nodes are removed or if you choose to undergo breast reconstruction.
Recovery after chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy or immunotherapy may take several weeks or several months, depending on the location and stage of the tumor. Your healthcare provider can tell you about how long your treatment should take.
Like most cancers, knowing your family history can help you take preventative steps, such as early screenings and mammograms. Even though invasive ductal carcinoma can’t be prevented altogether, there are steps you can take to lower your risk:
If you’ve been diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, your healthcare provider will discuss your treatment options with you in detail. For best results, you’ll want to begin treatment as soon as possible.
Invasive ductal carcinoma is quite curable, especially when detected and treated early.
The five-year survival rate for localized invasive ductal carcinoma is high — nearly 100% when treated early on. If the cancer has spread to other tissues in the region, the five-year survival rate is 86%. If the cancer has metastasized to distant areas of your body, the five-year survival rate is 28%.
Keep in mind that survival rates cannot tell you how long you will live. These numbers are based on people who have undergone breast cancer treatment in the past. For more information about your specific case, talk to your healthcare provider.
If you notice any unusual changes in your breast tissue, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. If you’re currently undergoing treatment for invasive ductal carcinoma, call your healthcare provider if you develop any concerning symptoms, such as high fever, chills, confusion, chest pain, shortness of breath (dyspnea), bone pain or abdominal pain.
Fully understanding your situation can empower you and help you take control of your health. Here are some questions you might want to ask your healthcare provider:
The most aggressive form of breast cancer is metastatic breast cancer. This means that the cancer has spread from your breast tissue to distant areas of your body.
Triple-negative breast cancer makes up about 15% of all breast cancers. In these cases, the cancer cells don’t have estrogen or progesterone receptors. They also don’t make much of the HER2 protein. Triple-negative invasive ductal carcinomas grow and spread faster than other types of breast cancer. The main treatment for this type of breast cancer is chemotherapy. Immunotherapy is added to chemotherapy for certain patients with this type of breast cancer.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hearing that you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer can be shocking, saddening and frustrating. You may want to consider joining a support group for people with breast cancer. Spending time with others who are going through the same thing can be beneficial for your mental, emotional and spiritual health. Invasive ductal carcinoma can be successfully treated, especially when detected early. So, call your healthcare provider right away if you notice any worrisome symptoms. Prompt treatment can help you improve your overall quality of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/29/2021.
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