Invasive Ductal Carcinoma: What You Need to Know

Published: September 8, 2022


What is invasive ductal carcinoma?

Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is the most common type of breast cancer. In fact, 80% of all invasive breast cancer diagnoses are for IDC in women. Additionally, IDC accounts for 90% of all invasive breast cancer diagnoses for men.

It is a metastatic breast cancer, which means that while IDC may start in the cells that line milk ducts within the breast, it will grow through the duct walls, spread to other parts of the breast, and even metastasize to other parts of your body.

Risk factors

Like any other form of cancer, certain individuals may be more at risk for developing invasive breast cancers such as medullary carcinoma or lobular carcinoma. It is important for those individuals to seek medical attention at a specialized breast clinic. Here are some of the most influential risk factors for invasive ductal carcinoma.


The first risk factor is age. As people age, their risk for developing breast cancers, including carcinoma, increases. Unfortunately, some cases may also involve negative lymph nodes. Many people are diagnosed with invasive ductal cancer (IDC) after the age of 50.


Invasive ductal carcinoma can happen in both men and women. However, as with most forms of breast cancer, women are more at risk than men.

Family history

A family history of breast cancer, or even other cancers, can increase your chance for mutations in certain genes that can result in IDC.

In approximately 5-10% of breast cancer cases, a diagnosis of IDC is linked to hereditary factors — such as mutations in breast cancer genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) and other genes (PALB2, CHEK2, and ATM).


Being overweight is a risk factor for many health conditions, including breast cancers and different grades of invasive ductal carcinoma. When our bodies are carrying around more weight, and often more fat, than they should be, it can make it harder on our immune systems. This means that we are more prone to developing illnesses, diseases, and conditions that we cannot fight off.

Alcohol consumption

The final influential risk factor we will mention here is alcohol consumption. According to research done over the years, drinking alcohol can actually damage our bodies’ DNA and proteins. Additionally, alcoholic beverages can impair our body’s ability to properly break down and absorb many nutrients that may help reduce the risk of developing cancer.


Breast cancer symptoms tend to be the same as other types of breast carcinoma. The grade of the carcinoma may also affect these symptoms. So, whether you have triple-negative breast cancer or invasive ductal carcinoma, you may display the same symptoms.

Although not all the symptoms of invasive breast cancer (IDC), these are some of the most common ones.

Breast lump

One of the most common symptoms is a lump in the breast. If you discover a new lump, it is a good idea to schedule a visit with your doctor to get it checked out.

It’s a good idea to give yourself a frequent self-examinations so that you can recognize any new bumps or changes in your breasts.

Breast pain

Breast pain (mastalgia) is actually a natural part of the menstrual cycle, and is extremely common among women in the 30-50 age year range. While experiencing breast pain is not a conclusive sign of breast cancer (roughly 70% of women experience breast pain at some point during their lives), it can be a symptom of IDC or other breast cancers.

If you’re experiencing breast pain that doesn’t go away or appear to follow your menstrual cycle, it may be a good idea to get checked by a doctor for any other signs of breast cancer.

Nipple discharge

If you notice any discharge from your nipples that’s not breast milk, you should consult a physician about the possibility of breast cancer.


Like many other types of cancer, multiple tests can help diagnose invasive ductal carcinoma. Often, individuals with IDC will go through a few of these tests as not all of them can offer a conclusive result by themselves.

Physical examination

This is the first test and is where a physician manually examines your breasts to feel for any lumps, changes, or abnormalities. If your doctor finds something abnormal, they will then usually recommend another test to identify or rule out IDC.


Usually, the next step in the testing process is a mammogram. Many women get annual or otherwise regular mammograms to spot any early signs of breast cancer before other symptoms develop. A mammogram is a low-dose X-ray focusing on the breast tissue.


Another test that used to identify abnormalities and signs of IDC is an ultrasound. These tests are good for pregnant patients because they do not use radiation. Similarly, if you have dense breast tissue, a mammogram may not be able to see through the tissue, but an ultrasound can.

Ultrasounds are also commonly used for people younger than 25 because they don’t use radiation and are gentler on the body. This is important because, until the age of 25 your body is still developing.


An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) detects small breast lesions. This makes it very valuable in examining patients who may have a high risk of breast cancer. An MRI uses radio waves and magnets to create a detailed pictures of the individual’s breast tissue so that any signs of cancer can be detected.


The last test is a biopsy. Your doctor will take a sample of breast tissue from the area that’s causing suspicion, which is sent to a lab to be analyzed by a pathologist.

Biopsies are used to confirm or rule out the presence of cancer in a patient.


The type of invasive ductal carcinoma treatment you are given will depend on the size and location of the cancer cells in your breast tissue and their characteristics. To increase the likelihood of survival and prevent the cancer spreading, you will likely go through one or more of the following treatments.

When treated early, five-year survival rate for IDC is nearly 100%. However, this rate decreases if the cancer cells have had time to spread to other areas of the body.


The first type of treatment for IDC is surgery. As technology and medical practices have evolved, more options exist to remove infected breast tissue. Two possible procedures for IDC are lumpectomy and mastectomy.

A lumpectomy removes the part of the breast that is cancerous. This surgery is usually followed by radiation treatments to treat any cancer cells that may have escaped the breast removal.

A mastectomy is the removal of the entire breast. This surgery is often used for patients with multiple, large, or aggressive invasive ductal tumors.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy can be used on its own or in conjunction with a lumpectomy. When used in conjunction, the radiation and lumpectomy combination can be just as effective as a mastectomy.

Usually, radiation therapy doesn’t need to be used after a mastectomy unless cancerous cells are found in the lymph nodes.


Another treatment for IDC is chemotherapy, or “chemo.” The effectiveness of this type of treatment depends on the cancer cells themselves. Some types of cells may be less affected, which may mean chemo is not right for some patients.

One of the most common and unwelcome side effects of chemo for many women is hair loss, and this can make some people hesitant to go ahead with treatment. After all, appearance has an incredible impact on the way we feel about ourselves. Many cancer patients say that the cancer has already had a negative impact on their mental wellbeing. The thought of losing their hair simply adds to the problem, affecting their self-image and sense of self-worth. Patients are also worried about how other people will view them and would rather keep their diagnosis private.  They see hair loss is as being an outward sign to others that something is wrong.

But luckily, alongside recent medical advancements, there have also been advancements in the technology that enables patients to save their hair whilst undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

Medical professionals understand that patient mental wellbeing is just as important as their physical wellbeing. As a result, many hospitals now offer cold cap therapy as part of a holistic treatment program. Cold capping is a non-invasive and drug-free solution to help reduce hair loss from chemotherapy.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy focuses on using certain drugs, antibodies, and medications to target particular characteristics of cancer cells. Essentially, these drugs are used to activate your immune system and fight off the IDC cancer cells.


There is no one thing you can do to prevent invasive ductal carcinoma. But there are things that you can do to decrease your risk of developing breast cancer in the first place.

To lower your risk of IDC, try to:

  • Limit your alcohol intake

  • Stop smoking

  • Maintain a healthy body weight

  • Get regular exercise

  • Maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet

  • Undergo any recommended testing — especially if you have a family history of cancer.


As the most common type of breast cancer, it’s important to know how to recognize and get tested for any symptoms you may have. This can be essential to catching IDC early, dramatically increasing your likelihood of recovering from treatment quickly and successfully.

If you have any questions about cold capping, or anything else related to your chemo treatment, why not join the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group – with thousands of members reaching out to each other, someone will no doubt be able to offer you first hand advice.