Invasive ductal carcinoma stages provide physicians with a uniform way to describe how far a patient’s cancer may have spread beyond its original location in a milk duct. This information can be helpful when evaluating treatment options, but it is not a prognostic indicator in and of itself. Many factors can influence a patient’s outcome, so the best source of information for understanding a breast cancer prognosis is always a physician who is familiar with the patient’s case.
What is invasive ductal carcinoma?
Before discussing how invasive ductal carcinoma is staged and what those stages mean, it may be helpful to explain exactly what this malignancy is. Invasive ductal carcinoma (also referred to as infiltrating ductal carcinoma) involves the ducts that carry milk from the lobules (milk-producing glands located in the breasts) to the nipples. The malignancy develops when cancerous cells form in one of these ducts and then spread to the surrounding tissues or lymph nodes. Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer, accounting for approximately 80% of the total number of cases.
Invasive ductal carcinoma can cause the following symptoms:
- A lump within the breast or the underarm area
- Pain or swelling in one breast
- Redness or a rash on a breast
- Dimpling around a nipple
- Inward turning of a nipple
- Discharge from a nipple
- Other changes in the size, shape or feel of a breast
These symptoms can be difficult to notice, especially when invasive ductal carcinoma hasn’t yet progressed past its early stages, so it’s important to perform monthly breast examinations and consult with a physician about any noticeable changes, even if they appear minor.
Notably, many individuals with invasive ductal carcinoma also have ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a type of noninvasive breast cancer that occurs when cancerous cells remain confined to the milk duct rather than spreading to nearby tissues. Although DCIS is often considered to be precancerous and preinvasive, it can become invasive and begin spreading to surrounding tissues if left untreated.
How do physicians assign breast cancer stages?
In general, breast cancer stages are established based on three key variables: the size of a tumor, the extent of lymph node involvement and whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. This information may be obtained through a combination of clinical examinations, imaging studies, blood tests, lymph node removal and tissue samples (biopsies). If, based on the initial test results, a physician believes that the cancer may have spread to other parts of the body, further testing may be ordered, such as a bone scan, positron emission tomography (PET) scan or liver function test.
What are the stages of invasive ductal carcinoma?
Invasive ductal carcinoma is usually described through a numeric scale ranging from 1 (the earliest stage) to 4 (the most advanced stage). Specifically, the invasive ductal carcinoma stages are:
- Stage 1 – A breast tumor is smaller than 2 centimeters in diameter and the cancer has not spread beyond the breast.
- Stage 2 – A breast tumor measures 2 to 4 centimeters in diameter or cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes in the underarm area.
- Stage 3 – More extensive cancer is found, but it is confined to the breast, surrounding tissues and lymph nodes.
- Stage 4 – The breast cancer has metastasized to lymph nodes beyond the underarm area or to distant sites, such as the lungs, liver, bones or brain.
What is the survival rate for invasive ductal carcinoma?
The survival rate for this malignancy varies depending on the stage the patient is at. For example:
- If invasive ductal carcinoma has not spread beyond the breast, the five-year survival rate is approximately 99%.
- If the cancer has spread to nearby structures or lymph nodes, the five-year survival rate is approximately 86%.
- If the malignancy has spread to a distant area of the body, the five-year survival rate is approximately 27%.
When considering these numbers, it’s important to remember that they are just general benchmarks and should not be used to predict a specific person’s chances of survival. There are a number of factors that can influence a patient’s prognosis, such as:
- Whether the cancer is new or recurring
- How far the cancer had progressed by the time it was diagnosed
- The cancer’s hormone-receptor status and HER2 status
- How quickly the cancer cells are growing
- How the cancer is responding to treatment
- The patient’s age, menopausal status (if female) and overall health
Plus, reported survival rates will of course be dated, and as newer treatment methods are developed, these rates (as well as patients’ quality of life) will likely improve.
Invasive ductal carcinoma treatment at Moffitt
In the Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program at Moffitt Cancer Center, our multispecialty tumor board reviews each thepatient’s’ breast cancer staging of many of our patients during a weekly meeting. This unique approach provides our patients with the benefit of highly individualized treatment based on multiple expert opinions in a single location, where we also offer comprehensive screening, diagnostic and supportive care services without the need for referrals.
If you’d like to learn more about invasive ductal carcinoma stages and treatment options, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. At Moffitt, we are providing every new patient with rapid access to a cancer expert within one day, a turnaround faster than that offered by any other cancer hospital across the country.