What is invasive ductal carcinoma?

About 268,600 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019. The most common form of breast cancer is called invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC). It’s responsible for about 80 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses.

Carcinoma refers to a type of cancer that begins in the skin cells or the tissues lining your internal organs. Adenocarcinomas are more specific types of carcinomas that originate in the glandular tissue of the body.

Invasive ductal carcinoma, also known as infiltrating ductal carcinoma, gets its name because it begins in the milk-carrying ducts of the breast, and spreads to (or invades) surrounding breast tissues. The two most common forms of invasive breast cancer are:

While IDC can affect women at any age, it’s most frequently diagnosed in women ages 55 to 64. This breast cancer can also affect men.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with IDC, rest assured that there are many different forms of treatment available.

The treatments for IDC fall into two main types:

  • Local treatments for IDC target the cancerous tissue of the breast and the surrounding areas, such as the chest and lymph nodes.
  • Systemic treatments for IDC are applied throughout the body, targeting any cells that may have traveled and spread from the original tumor. Systemic treatments are effective at reducing the likelihood that the cancer will return once it has been treated.

Local treatments

There are two main types of local treatments for IDC: surgery and radiation therapy.

Surgery is used to remove the cancerous tumor and determine whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. Surgery is typically the doctor’s first response when dealing with IDC.

It takes about two weeks to recover from a lumpectomy and four weeks or more to recover from a mastectomy. Recovery times may be longer if lymph nodes were removed, if reconstruction was done, or if there were any complications.

Sometimes physical therapy may be recommended to help with recovery from these procedures.

Radiation therapy directs powerful radiation beams at the breast, chest, armpit, or collarbone to kill any cells that may be in or near the location of the tumor. Radiation therapy takes about 10 minutes to administer daily over the course of five to eight weeks.

Some people treated with radiation may experience swelling or skin changes. Certain symptoms, such as fatigue, may take up to 6 to 12 weeks or longer to subside.

Different kinds of surgeries and radiation therapies available for treating this IDC include:

  • lumpectomy, or removal of the tumor
  • mastectomy, or removal of the breast
  • lymph node dissection and removal
  • external beam radiation, in which radiation beams target the entire breast area
  • internal partial-breast radiation, in which radioactive materials are placed near the site of a lumpectomy
  • external partial-breast radiation, in which radiation beams directly target the original cancer site

Systemic treatments

Systemic treatments may be recommended depending on the characteristics of the cancer, including in situations where it has already spread beyond the breast or is at high risk of spreading to other parts of the body.

Systemic treatments such chemotherapy may be given to shrink the tumor(s) prior to surgery, or may be given after surgery, depending on the situation.

Systemic treatments for IDC include:

  • chemotherapy
  • hormonal therapy
  • targeted therapies

Chemotherapy for invasive ductal carcinoma

Chemotherapy consists of anticancer medications that are taken in pill form or injected into the bloodstream. It may take up to six months or longer after treatment has subsided to recover from the many side effects, such as nerve damage, joint pain, and fatigue.

There are many different chemotherapy drugs to treat ICD such as paclitaxel (Taxol) and doxorubicin (Adriamycin). Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.

Hormonal therapy for invasive ductal carcinoma

Hormonal therapy is used to treat cancer cells with receptors for estrogen or progesterone, or both. The presence of these hormones can encourage breast cancer cells to multiply.

Hormonal therapy removes or blocks these hormones to help prevent the cancer from growing. Hormonal therapy can have side effects that may include hot flashes and fatigue, and how long it takes for side effects to subside after finishing treatment can vary based on the drug and the length of administration.

Some hormonal therapy drugs are taken regularly for five or more years. Side effects can take anywhere from several months to a year or more to wear off once treatment has stopped.

Types of hormonal therapy include:

Targeted therapies

Targeted therapies are used to destroy breast cancer cells by interfering with specific proteins inside the cell that affect growth. Certain proteins that are targeted are:

  • HER2
  • VEGF

Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer. When it comes to treatment, there are local treatments that target specific parts of the body and systemic therapies that affect the whole body or multiple organ systems.

More than one type of treatment may be needed to effectively treat breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about the kind of treatment that is right for you and what is best for your stage of breast cancer.