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Ductal Carcinoma (Invasive and In Situ)

How is invasive ductal carcinoma diagnosed?

IDC may cause a hard, immovable lump with irregular edges to form in your breast. It can sometimes be felt during a breast examination. In some cases, the cancer causes the nipple to become inverted. A mammogram may show areas of calcification -- where calcium has collected.

If your physical exam and mammogram indicate you may have IDC, you’ll have a biopsy to collect cells for analysis. Your doctor can make a diagnosis from the biopsy results.

Since IDC often spreads, you’ll likely have additional tests to look for cancer cells in other areas of your body. These tests may include:

  • CT scan. It's a powerful X-ray that makes detailed pictures inside your body.
  • PET scan . Used together with a CT scan, this test can help find cancer in lymph nodes and other areas.
  • MRI. It uses strong magnets and radio waves to make pictures of the breast and other structures inside your body.
  • Bone scan. A radioactive substance called a tracer is injected your arm, and pictures are taken to find out if cancer may have traveled to your bones.
  • Chest X-ray: It uses radiation in low doses to make images of structures inside your chest.

Your doctor will also take samples from your lymph nodes in the armpits to check for cancer. This is called axillary lymph node dissection.

The results from these tests will determine the stage of your cancer, and knowing the stage will help guide your treatment.

How is invasive ductal carcinoma treated?

Most women with IDC have surgery to remove the cancer. The choice between a lumpectomy or mastectomy will depend on the size of your tumor and how much it has spread throughout your breast and surrounding lymph nodes.

In addition to surgery, most doctors will recommend other treatments including chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these treatments.

Chemotherapy and hormone therapy target cancer cells throughout your entire body. Radiation specifically focuses on the area around your breast cancer. The use of radiation will depend on the type of surgery you have (lumpectomy or mastectomy), the size of the tumor, whether it has spread, and the number of lymph nodes with cancer cells.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 21, 2015
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