Invasive Breast Cancer: Symptoms, Treatments, Prognosis

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 26 March 2021

A woman’s lifelong risk of contracting an aggressive type of breast cancer is 1 in 8. Breast cancer that is invasive occurs in the ducts or glands of the breast and spreads to the breast tissue. It will then spread to the lymph nodes of the area and beyond.

There are treatments that work. Your care would be determined by the form of cancer you have and how far and where it has grown. You’ll work with your doctor to devise the right treatment strategy for you.


Types of Invasive Breast Cancer

Around 90% of invasive breast cancer is accounted for by the types:

  • Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC). This is the most prevalent form, accounting for roughly 80% of all cases. Cancer cells start in a milk duct, penetrate through the walls, and infiltrate breast tissue with IDC. It has the potential to remain localised, which ensures it remains close to where the tumour began. Cancer cells can also spread across the body.
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC). Around 10% of all recurrent breast cancers are of this kind. ILC begins in the lobules, or milk glands, and then extends across the body. Many people with ILC report a thickening of their breasts rather than a lump.

Some people may have a combination of both types of invasive breast cancer or a distinct type.

What are the signs of invasive breast cancer?

In the early phases of breast cancer, there could be no signs or symptoms. You may experience one or more of the following symptoms as the cancer progresses:

  • A lump or thickening in or around the breast or underarm that continues after your monthly menstrual cycle
  • A tiny lump that looks like a pea.
  • A difference in the breast’s size, shape, or contour.
  • A transparent or blood-stained fluid from the breast.
  • Dimpled, puckered, scaly, or inflamed skin on the breast or nipple, or a difference in the texture or colour of the skin on the breast or nipple.
  • The skin on the breast or nipple is red.
  • The nipple’s shape or position varies.
  • An area on one breast that is different from the other of the breast.
  • A hardened marble-like region under the skin.

When you do a monthly breast self-exam, you may find changes. You will become familiar with the regular differences in your breasts by self-checking them on a regular basis.

What increases the risk of invasive breast cancer?

While there is no way to predict when you will contract an aggressive type of breast cancer, there are factors that can improve your odds, much of which you cannot alter.

Women above the age of 50 are at a greater risk. Invasive breast cancer affects around 10% of women under the age of 45. Once invasive breast cancer is first identified, two out of every three people are 55 or older.

Breast cancer is affected by genetics and family history. White people are more likely than black, Asian, or Hispanic women to have this condition.

You’re also at greater risk if you’re overweight, have dense breasts, have never had children, or became pregnant after the age of 35.


What is tumor grading?

Once the tumour has been removed, a doctor will examine it and grade it. When examined under a microscope, the cancer cells’ grade is determined by how closely they resemble human cells. Low-grade cancer cells resemble regular breast cells in appearance. Breast cancer cells of a higher grade have a distinct appearance. They reveal that the cancer has become more aggressive.

Oestrogen and progesterone receptors may both be tested by the doctor. This examination will determine if oestrogen and progesterone, two female hormones, have an effect on cancer cells. If the test results are positive, hormones are stimulating the cancer cells to grow. In that scenario, hormone-suppression or -blocking therapy could help in the treatment of the cancer.

The cancer would also be investigated for the existence of the HER2 gene. Additional medications, such as trastuzumab (Herceptin), can be used if it is identified.

Other scans will assess whether the breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

How is invasive breast cancer treated?

The type of breast cancer medication your doctor suggests can be determined by a variety of factors, including:

  • Tumour size
  • Tumour location
  • Tests on the cancer cells
  • Stage of the cancer
  • Age
  • General health
  • If you have completed menopause
  • Family history
  • Your opinions on treatment options
  • Presence or absence of gene mutations

Invasive breast cancer may be managed in a variety of ways. They are as follows:

  • Surgery: A lumpectomy is a surgical procedure where the cancer and a tiny region of healthy tissue surrounding it are removed by a surgeon. Chemotherapy may be followed by a mastectomy. This operation removes the whole breast.
  • Chemotherapy: Before surgery, this drug treatment may be used to shrink a tumor and allow the cancer to be operable. It’s often offered after treatment to try to keep the cancer from returning.
  • Radiation: After chemotherapy and surgery, radiation therapies are often used to prevent the cancer from recurring.
  • Hormone therapy: If the cancer cells have hormone receptors, these medications can be given.
  • Targeted therapy: If the cancer cells contain the HER2 mutation, you may be administered HER2-targeted treatments.

Your treatment’s aim is to provide you with the strongest possible outcome. One or a combination of them can be used by your doctor.

Some invasive breast cancer patients want to participate in a clinical trial. New medications or medication formulations are tested in these studies to see whether they are safe and efficient. They’re still a good option for patients to explore alternative medication that isn’t widely accessible. If one of these experiments is a suitable match for you, the doctor will inform you.

Women with invasive breast cancer have a greater likelihood of a positive outcome than they would have had in the past. Consult your doctor to decide the best course of action for your case.


Referenced on 26.3.2021

  1. American Cancer Society: “What is Breast Cancer?"
  2. “ILC — Invasive Lobular Carcinoma" and “Treatment for DCIS.”
  3. National Institute of Health: “Breast Cancer: Reference Summary."
  4. Breast Cancer Treatments of America: “Invasive breast cancer risk factors.”
  5. National Cancer Institute: “Breast Cancer Risk in American Women.”

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