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Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is the most common type of breast cancer, accounting for approximately 80% of cases. The tumor originates in the cells that line a breast duct, which carries milk from a milk-producing gland (lobule) to the nipple. After breaking through the wall of the duct, the cancerous cells may invade other breast tissues or nearby lymph nodes.

Invasive ductal carcinoma is not necessarily metastatic breast cancer, but it can be. Metastasis can occur if cancerous cells travel beyond the breast and enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Once there, the cancer can circulate throughout the body and reach distant tissues and organs.

Liz, Senior Director, Moffitt Organizational Development and Breast Cancer Survivor
I felt confident that whatever was going to happen, I was going to be in the best care and best hands.
Breast Cancer Survivor

Early warning signs of invasive ductal carcinoma

IDC often produces very subtle or no symptoms in its early stages. The first noticeable sign is usually a typical breast cancer symptom, such as a breast lump or mass.

Common symptoms of invasive ductal carcinoma

Many IDC cases are diagnosed after a new breast lump is found during a routine screening mammogram or clinical breast examination.

What does invasive ductal carcinoma feel like?

IDC may cause a distinct breast lump or mass that feels more solid or otherwise different than the surrounding breast tissue. Unlike the painful breast swelling that normally results from hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, the lump may feel:

  • Hard
  • Asymmetrical
  • Fixed in place
  • Painless

A breast lump that can be easily moved under the skin when pressed is more likely to be a benign breast tumor (fibroadenoma) than cancer, while a painful breast lump is more likely to be a breast abscess or mastitis.

What does invasive ductal carcinoma look like?

The visible symptoms of IDC can include:

  • Thickened or dimpled breast skin
  • Skin redness or rash
  • Swelling of one breast
  • Dimpling around a nipple
  • A newly inverted nipple
  • Unusual nipple discharge
  • Other unusual changes in the size, shape or contour of a breast

Symptoms of advanced invasive ductal carcinoma

Additional symptoms may occur if IDC metastasizes from the breast and nearby lymph nodes to another part of the body, such as the:

  • Lungs – Coughing and shortness of breath
  • Liver – Abdominal pain and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Bones – Bone pain and frequent fractures
  • Brain or spinal cord – Headaches, memory loss, confusion, difficulty concentrating, seizures and other neurological symptoms

Metastatic breast cancer can also cause unexplained fatigue, loss of appetite, unintended weight loss, nausea and vomiting.

Benefit from world-class care at Moffitt Cancer Center

If you would like to learn more about invasive ductal carcinoma signs and symptoms, you can request an appointment with a specialist in Moffitt’s Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program by calling 1-888-663-3488 or submitting a new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.