Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common breast cancer

Your breasts are made of different types of tissues, including fat, ducts and lobules. Breast ducts are the part of the breast that take milk from the lobules, where it's made, to the nipple.

Cells in the breast duct have to divide and grow like every cell in your body. When duct cells become cancerous, it's called ductal carcinoma, the most common form of breast cancer.

If the cancer cells from your breast ducts spread to other types of tissues, such as other areas of your breast or into the nearby lymph nodes in your armpit, it's called invasive ductal carcinoma.

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What are the signs of invasive ductal carcinoma?

Invasive ductal carcinoma can cause a lump to develop in your breast. The lump may or may not be painful. You may be able to feel the lump or see it during a mammogram (an X-ray of your breasts).

Swollen lymph nodes in your armpits may also be a sign of invasive ductal carcinoma. If you have swollen lymph nodes or a lump (or lumps) in your breast, you should talk to your doctor.

How is invasive ductal carcinoma treated?

Your doctor will help you decide what cancer treatments are best for you. Your treatment may depend on where the cancer has spread (metastasized). Most people with invasive ductal carcinoma will have surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Over the years, treatment for breast cancer has greatly improved. These treatments are often more effective, with fewer side effects than in the past, and give patients a good outlook, especially when cancer is caught early.

What surgeries are used to fight breast cancer?

The first step in treating invasive ductal carcinoma is to remove the lump in your breast through a surgery called a lumpectomy. If you have more than one lump, or if cancer cells have spread to other parts of your breast, the entire breast may be surgically removed, which is called a mastectomy.

During surgery, your surgeon performs a sentinel node biopsy, which shows the lymph nodes that could be affected by cancer and need to be removed.

What happens after surgery?

After surgery, your doctors will know more about whether your cancer has spread and may adjust your treatment. After a few weeks of healing, you'll start the next step of treatment.

Many women will receive radiation therapy where they had surgery. Radiation therapy uses powerful beams of energy to kill any cancer cells that may have been left behind after surgery.

If cancer cells have spread to your lymph nodes, you'll likely need chemotherapy. If cancer cells are in your lymph nodes, it means that they may have also spread to other parts of your body.

During chemotherapy, you take medicines that kill cancer cells no matter where they are in your body. Chemotherapy helps keep you cancer-free in the future.

Hormone therapy can prevent cancer from coming back

If estrogen (a hormone) helped cancer grow in your breasts, hormone therapy for five to ten years after your cancer treatment can help keep cancer from coming back. For this therapy, you'll take a daily pill to keep your breasts from absorbing estrogen. You may also take a pill that stops your body from making estrogen.

Since two out of three breast cancers are affected by estrogen, hormone therapy has become a popular therapy to help keep cancer from returning.