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What is invasive mammary carcinoma (IMC)?

Most often (80 percent of the time) breast cancer begins in the milk ducts of the breast. If the abnormal cells have not broken through the duct into the surrounding breast tissue, it is called ductal carcinoma In situ (DCIS). This means it has no ability to spread, as the abnormal cells are still confined to the duct. But, if the cancer cells have broken through the milk duct, and begin growing in the surrounding breast tissue, it is now called invasive mammary carcinoma, as it now has the ability to spread to the lymph nodes under the arm, and into the blood.

Invasive mammary carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer. When we classify breast cancers, there are two main types of breast cancer: invasive and non-invasive cancers. In 2013, about 230,000 women (and about 2,000 men) are diagnosed with invasive mammary carcinoma. By comparison, there will be about 65,000 cases of noninvasive breast cancer diagnosed this year in the United States.

Dr. Amanda J. Morehouse, MD
Critical Care Surgeon

Invasive mammary carcinoma (IMC) is breast cancer that can travel outside the breast. Carcinoma is the medical word for cancer. Mammary simply means that it originated in the breast. Invasive means that it has the ability to break through the lining of the breast, or the membrane. It can find the breast cells themselves in the lining of the duct in communication with the outside.

 

The same sort of layers of the skin exist in the breast. The epithelium in the top layer is confined by a connective tissue membrane. When something's invasive, it means that it's developed the ability to break through that lining and invade the surrounding issue. Those are the IMCs that can travel outside the breast, as opposed to in situ carcinomas which are confined above that membrane layer, so they cannot travel outside the breast.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.