Breast cancer, the most common type of cancer in women in the United States, is not one disease. There are several types of breast cancer. Invasive breast cancer is one of these, in which cancer cells spread into surrounding breast tissues.
This article will explain what invasive breast cancer is, how it is diagnosed, and what treatment options are available.
What Exactly is Invasive Breast Cancer?
The milk-producing glands (lobules, which are small sacs found inside the lobes) or the milk ducts are the most common sites for breast cancer to begin. Invasive breast cancer occurs when cancer cells spread outside of these areas and into the healthy breast tissue.
The majority of breast cancers are invasive. According to the American Cancer Society, invasive breast cancer accounts for 81% of all cases.
Breast Cancer Staging and Invasive Breast Cancer
The presence or absence of invasive cancer cells can influence how breast cancer is staged after a diagnosis.
Cancer in situ refers to breast cancer that has remained isolated to the site where it began and has not spread to healthy breast tissue. This is also known as non-invasive breast cancer or Stage 0 breast cancer.
When invasive cancer is discovered, it is classified as stages 1 through 4. Many of these stages are further subdivided.
The TNM staging system, which is used for invasive breast cancer, takes several factors into account. This includes the following:
- Tumor: The size of the tumor and the extent to which it has spread
- Nodes of Lymph: Whether or not cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, and if so, how many are affected
- Metastasis is a type of cancer that spreads throughout the body. If cancer has spread to other organs and tissues (metastasized)
- Tumor grade: Tumor grading indicates how rapidly cancer cells are likely to grow and spread. The cancer is more likely to be aggressive if the grade is higher
- The presence of HER2: Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) proteins aid in the control of breast cell growth and repair. Too many HER2 proteins, on the other hand, can cause breast cells to grow much faster than they should
- Status of the estrogen receptor: The most common type of breast cancer, ER-positive, indicates that the breast cancer cells have receptors on their surfaces that bind to estrogen
- Status of the progesterone receptor: This means that the cancer cells’ surface receptors bind to the hormone progesterone
It is possible that invasive breast cancer will not manifest any symptoms. In these cases, it may be detected initially through routine screening techniques such as a mammogram.
Symptoms that may be present include:
- lump or thickening in the breast or underarm (armpit) area changes in breast size or shape
- Skin changes on the breast, such as redness, swelling, or dimpling
- A nipple that turns inward
- a fluid that leaks from the nipple that is not breastmilk
There are several tests available to detect invasive breast cancer. These are some examples:
- Breast exam: A healthcare professional will carefully feel your breasts for signs of lumps or other changes during a breast exam.
- Mammogram: A device presses your breasts between two plates during a mammogram. After that, X-ray images of the breast tissue are taken and analyzed for signs of cancer.
- Imaging tests: A healthcare professional may request additional imaging tests to aid in the visualization of breast tissue. Ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging are two examples (MRI).
- A biopsy is a procedure in which a sample of breast tissue is carefully removed and examined under a microscope for signs of cancer.
- Blood tests: Blood tests use a sample of your blood to look for disease or illness markers.
If cancer is found, additional tests can be used to characterize it and determine its stage. These tests may include the following:
- Tests for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and HER2 status are all available.
- Lymph node biopsy: A lymph node biopsy can determine whether or not cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests can determine whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Bone scans, X-rays, CT scans, and positron emission tomography (PET) scans are some of the tests that may be used.
Many women undergo surgery to remove cancer cells as well as lymph nodes where cancer has spread. The type of surgery recommended is determined by the stage of cancer as well as the location of the tumor.
- Breast-conserving surgery removes the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue but does not involve the removal of the breast. It is also referred to as a partial mastectomy or a lumpectomy.
- Total mastectomy: A total mastectomy involves the removal of the entire breast. It may also be necessary to remove some of the lymph nodes near the armpit.
- A modified radical mastectomy involves the removal of the entire breast, as well as many of the surrounding lymph nodes and some of the chest lining. Part of the chest muscle is sometimes removed as well.
Radiation therapy employs high-energy radiation to halt the growth of cancer cells. It can be administered either externally or internally (brachytherapy).
Following surgery, radiation therapy is frequently advised. This is because it can aid in the removal of any cancer cells that may have remained at the surgical site.
Systemic therapies are treatments that can travel through your bloodstream and affect various parts of your body. Systemic therapies can be administered as a pill or as an infusion.
Systemic therapies include the following:
- Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses powerful drugs to stop cancer cells from growing.
- Targeted therapy employs drugs that specifically target cancer cells. As a result, when compared to chemotherapy and radiation therapy, they cause less harm to healthy cells in the body.
- Hormone therapy: This treatment inhibits the actions of hormones that cause breast cancer cells to grow. It can be used if breast cancer has a high level of hormone receptors, such as estrogen or progesterone.
- Immunotherapy is a treatment that stimulates immune cells to respond to cancer cells. Some types of invasive breast cancer, such as triple-negative breast cancer, can be treated with it.
Invasive breast cancer occurs when cancer spreads from the site of origin into the healthy breast tissue. This type of cancer can be localized to the breast or spread to other parts of the body, both nearby and far away.
If you notice any possible signs of breast cancer, make an appointment with a healthcare professional. When invasive breast cancer is limited to the breast or surrounding tissues, the prognosis is generally better.