What Does an Invasive Breast Cancer Diagnosis Look Like?
There are various types of breast cancer. But, most breast cancers start in and around the area of the milk-producing glands.
Invasive breast cancer occurs when cancer spreads from these milk-producing glands and moves outwards onto the healthy breast tissues.
With early invasive breast cancer detection and treatment, the survival rates are highly optimistic, and patients can expect a promising life expectancy.
Invasive breast cancer types
- Invasive ductal carcinoma: The anatomy of the breast includes various parts, such as the nipple, areola, milk ducts, lobes, lobules and fatty tissue. The lobes are small sac-like structures inside which the lobules are located. These lobules are glands that produce breast milk.
The lobules are connected to the nipple through milk ducts. It is through these ducts that the milk passes from the lobules to the nipple. Invasive ductal carcinoma is cancer in the milk ducts.
Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) starts in the lining of the milk ducts, and over time, the cancer progresses out into the surrounding healthy breast tissue.
Invasive ductal carcinoma accounts for around 80% of all invasive breast cancer diagnoses in patients. Based on how the cancer cells look, oncologists have identified a few subtypes with IDC. These account for less than 5% of overall invasive breast cancer types:
- Medullary carcinoma
- Mucinous carcinoma
- Adenoid cystic carcinoma
- Metaplastic carcinoma
- Tubular carcinoma
- Papillary carcinoma
- Micropapillary carcinoma
- Mixed carcinoma
- Invasive lobular breast cancer: This invasive breast cancer accounts for 10% of all breast cancers diagnosed. It starts inside the lobules, and as cancer progresses, the cancerous cells spill out of these lobules and spread to other healthy breast tissues.
While many breast cancers grow in the form of lumps that are easier to detect through physical examination and mammograms, the ILC grows in lines. Without the clumping of the cancerous cells, it is more difficult to identify if patients have ILC.
Who can get invasive breast cancer?
Invasive breast cancer is most common in women and other female-bodied people who are:
- Above the age of 55
- Overweight or obese
- Pregnant or have given birth after the age of 35
Invasive breast cancer symptoms
- Swelling of the breast
- Redness of the skin on and around the breast
- Lump on the breast or a hardening inside the breast or the armpit
- Inversion of the nipple
- Dimpling of the skin on the breast
- Fluid leakage (not breast milk – it is either clear or tinged with blood)
Invasive breast cancer stages
- Stage 0: At this stage, breast cancer is not invasive yet and remains confined to the milk ducts or the lobules.
- Stage 1: The cancer cells will have progressed within the lobules and milk duct but will have not yet broken out of and spread to the surrounding breast tissue. In some cases, the cancer may have affected the first lymph node.
- Stage 2: In stage 2 invasive breast cancer, the cancerous cells have spread to multiple lymph nodes, and the invasion of surrounding breast tissue starts.
- Stage 3: The cancer cells start to form tumours in the surrounding breast tissues or the lymph nodes in stage 3 invasive breast cancer. Without immediate treatment, the chances of breast cancer metastasising are very high.
- Stage 4: When invasive breast cancer starts to move beyond the breast and tumours form in other parts of the body, it is called metastasis. Aggressive treatment is often necessary at this stage.
Diagnosing invasive breast cancer
In order to decide the correct invasive breast cancer treatment for each patient, doctors use the following breast cancer diagnosis methods:
- Self-diagnosis by patients: Doctors recommend that patients check for lumps or abnormalities on or around their breasts, especially after they cross the age of 40. If any invasive breast cancer symptoms are observed, it is best to visit the doctor immediately.
- Manual examination by the doctor: The medical practitioner manually examines the breast to identify signs of invasive breast cancer.
- Mammogram and other imaging tests: Imaging tests like mammograms, MRIs and ultrasounds are used to check for any abnormal masses in the breast tissues.
- Blood tests: The patient’s blood is drawn to check if it contains any markers for breast cancer.
- Tissue/tumour biopsy: To confirm the diagnosis, doctors remove part of the affected tissues/tumour and conduct a biopsy. This will tell them whether the mass is cancerous and if it’s benign or malignant.
Invasive breast cancer treatment
Depending on their invasive breast cancer stages, patients will be provided with a combination of the following treatments:
- Radiation therapy: Powerful energy waves are directed at the cancerous cells to eliminate them.
- Chemotherapy: Specific combinations of drugs are given to help reduce tumour size and prevent re-occurrence.
- Immunotherapy: The patient’s immune system is stimulated to activate it against the cancer cells and help the body fight off cancer.
- Hormone therapy: If the patient’s breast cancer is growing more invasive due to progesterone or oestrogen, certain hormone blockers are used to block out these hormones and stop the spread of cancer.
- Surgery: Different surgical options provided are:
- Breast-conserving surgery, where only the cancerous tissue is cut out, and the rest of the breast is preserved.
- Total mastectomy, where the entire breast and sometimes the lymph nodes in the chest are removed.
- Modified radical mastectomy, where the complete breast, many of the surrounding lymph nodes and sometimes even parts of the chest muscle are resected.
Survival rates for invasive lobular breast cancer and invasive ductal carcinoma
The five-year survival rate for invasive ductal breast cancer is almost 100%, provided treatment is given at the earliest. If ductal carcinoma has pervaded other breast tissues, this rate comes down to 86%. If it has metastasised, the survival rate is at 28%.
As with ductal carcinoma, the five-year survival rates for invasive lobular breast cancer is 100% with early diagnosis and treatment. But the survival rate is 93% if the cancer has spread to other breast tissues. During metastasis, the survival rate comes to 22%.
Invasive breast cancer occurs when cancer spreads from these milk-producing glands and moves outwards onto healthy breast tissue. It is most common in women. While Breast Cancer is on the rise in India, awareness has been the best way to deal with this problem. Getting timely expert opinion has saved many lives.
Oncologists at the CK Birla Hospital’s dedicated Breast Centre in Gurugram, have treated many patients undergoing different stages of invasive breast cancer. The team will conduct a thorough diagnosis and create a detailed treatment plan to help nurse you back to good health.