Also known as Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC), invasive breast cancer is the most common type of breast cancer, making up about 80 per cent of all invasive breast cancers. In invasive breast cancer cases, the cancer cells start developing within the breast ducts and progresses to other parts of the breast tissue. Sometimes the cancer can spread to the lymph nodes, and to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.
Symptoms of Invasive Breast Cancer
During the early stages, invasive breast cancer may not show any signs or symptoms. But as it progresses, it can present itself through symptoms such as:
- Thickening or lump on or near the breast
- A change in the shape, size, texture, or contour of the breast
- Discharge from the nipple – might be clear or bloody
- Swelling, or lump under the arm
- Pain in the breast or armpit
- Changes to the nipple
- A rash on the nipple (less common)
- Redness of the skin on the breast
Diagnosis of Invasive Breast Cancer
In most women, invasive breast cancer is diagnosed during a routine breast screening or mammogram. During diagnosis, the doctor will feel for any lymph nodes that may be enlarged at the base of the neck and under the arms. Other tests are also ordered to confirm the presence of breast cancer cells, and to check how much of it has affected the breast. These tests include:
- An ultrasound scan
- Breast X-ray (mammogram)
- Biopsy (tissue sample is removed from breast for analysis)
- Punch biopsy of the skin (if there are any changes to the skin or nipple)
Treatment of Invasive Breast Cancer
The first treatment for removing the invasive breast cancer is surgery. Based on the test results, the doctor will customize the treatment plan. Before the surgery, the doctor has to consider:
- The aggressiveness of the cancer
- Stage of the cancer
- Tumor size and location
- Age and overall health
- History of breast cancer in the family
- Gene mutation test results
There are two types of surgery when it comes to treating invasive breast cancer. These are:
Breast-conserving surgery (BCS)
Also known as a lumpectomy, the surgeon removes the cancer cells, as well as a minimal amount of healthy breast tissue surrounding the tumor. After the lumpectomy, radiation therapy is recommended to reduce the chances of the cancer returning.
This is the surgical removal of the entire breast, and it would be recommended if:
- The area of the cancer is large
- The cancer cells are in multiple areas of the breast
- There is a gene mutation which increases the likelihood of breast cancer
- There’s a history of breast cancer in the family
- The patient cannot stand radiation
If one undergoes a mastectomy, radiation therapy may not be required, and depending on each case, the patient might undergo a breast reconstruction surgery immediately after, or at a later date.
Additional Treatments for Invasive Breast Cancer
After the lumpectomy or mastectomy, you may need additional treatments, known as adjuvant treatments. The goal is to give the best promising outcome. These treatments include:
- Chemotherapy: This is a drug therapy that is done before surgery to reduce the size of the tumor with the aim of making it operable. The treatment is also given after surgery to minimize the chances of the cancer returning.
- Radiation therapy: As mentioned, if you go through a lumpectomy, you may need radiation therapy to destroy any cancer cells and reduce the chances of it recurring. This is done on an outpatient basis for a duration of 4 to 6 weeks.
- Hormone therapy: This is considered if the cancer cells test positive for hormone receptors, which reduces the chance of the cancer returning or progressing further.
- Targeted therapy: If the breast cancer cells have human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 gene (HER2), treatment drugs to specifically target it may be given.
Recovery After Invasive Breast Cancer Treatment
After the breast cancer treatment, your doctor will keep a close watch on you. This is because there is a risk of the cancer recurring. Follow-up appointments are required every few months where the doctor will do tests for signs of recurrence. A mammogram and screening might be required every 6 to 12 months (usually after a lumpectomy).