Invasive lobular carcinoma



What is invasive lobular carcinoma?

Invasive lobular carcinoma is a type of breast cancer that begins in the milk-producing glands (lobules) of the breast.

Invasive cancer means the cancer cells have broken out of the lobule where they began and have the potential to spread to the lymph nodes and other areas of the body.

How common is invasive lobular carcinoma?

Invasive lobular carcinoma makes up a small portion of all breast cancers. The most common type of breast cancer begins in the breast ducts (invasive ductal carcinoma). Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of invasive lobular carcinoma?

At its earliest stages, invasive lobular carcinoma may cause no signs and symptoms. As it grows larger, invasive lobular carcinoma may cause:

  • An area of thickening in part of the breast
  • A new area of fullness or swelling in the breast
  • A change in the texture or appearance of the skin over the breast, such as dimpling or thickening
  • A newly inverted nipple

Invasive lobular carcinoma is less likely than other forms of breast cancer to cause a firm or distinct breast lump.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes invasive lobular carcinoma?

It’s not clear what causes invasive lobular carcinoma.

How invasive lobular carcinoma forms

Doctors know that invasive lobular carcinoma begins when cells in one or more milk-producing glands of the breast develop mutations in their DNA. The mutations lead to the inability to control cell growth, which results in the cells dividing and growing rapidly. Depending on the aggressiveness of the cancer type, the cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body.

Lobular carcinoma cells tend to invade surrounding breast tissue in a starlike manner. The affected area may have a different feel from the surrounding breast tissue, more like a thickening and fullness, but it’s unlikely to feel like a lump.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for invasive lobular carcinoma?

There are many risk factors for invasive lobular carcinoma, such as:

  • Being female. Women are more likely to develop breast cancer, but men also can develop breast cancer.
  • Older age. Your risk of breast cancer increases as you age. Women with invasive lobular carcinoma tend to be a few years older than women diagnosed with other types of breast cancer.
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS). If you’ve been diagnosed with LCIS — abnormal cells confined within breast lobules — your risk of developing invasive cancer in either breast is increased. LCIS isn’t cancer, but is an indication of increased risk of breast cancer of any type.
  • Postmenopausal hormone use. Use of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone during and after menopause has been shown to increase the risk of invasive lobular carcinoma.

Researchers believe the hormones may stimulate tumor growth and also make tumors more difficult to see on mammograms. It’s not clear whether newer hormone regimens, including lower dose combinations, could also increase the risk of invasive lobular carcinoma.

Inherited genetic cancer syndromes. Women with a rare inherited condition called hereditary diffuse gastric cancer syndrome have an increased risk of both stomach (gastric) cancer and invasive lobular carcinoma.

Women with certain inherited genes may have an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is invasive lobular carcinoma diagnosed?

Tests and procedures used to diagnose invasive lobular carcinoma include:

  • A mammogram creates an X-ray image of your breast. Invasive lobular carcinoma is less likely to be detected on a mammogram than other types of breast cancer are. Still, a mammogram is a useful diagnostic test.
  • Ultrasound uses sound waves to create pictures of your breast. Invasive lobular carcinoma may be more difficult to detect with ultrasound than may other types of breast cancer.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI uses a strong magnetic field to create a picture of your breast. A breast MRI may help in evaluating an area of concern when mammogram and ultrasound are inconclusive. It can also help determine the extent of the cancer within your breast.
  • Removing a sample of tissue for testing. If an abnormality is detected, your doctor may recommend a biopsy procedure to remove a sample of suspicious breast tissue for laboratory testing. A breast biopsy can be done using a needle to draw out fluid or tissue from the breast, or breast tissue can be removed surgically.

Determining the extent of invasive lobular carcinoma

Once it’s determined that you have invasive lobular carcinoma, your doctor will determine if additional tests are needed to learn the extent, or stage, of your cancer. Most women do not require additional tests other than breast imaging, physical exam and blood tests.

Depending on your situation, your doctor may recommend imaging tests to stage your breast cancer, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), among others.

Using this information, your doctor assigns your cancer a Roman numeral that indicates its stage. Breast cancer stages range from 0 to IV, with 0 indicating cancer that is very small and noninvasive. Stage IV breast cancer, also called metastatic breast cancer, indicates cancer that has spread to other areas of the body.

How is invasive lobular carcinoma treated?

ILC can be more difficult to diagnose than other forms of breast cancer because it spreads in a unique pattern of branching. The good news is that it’s a relatively slow-growing cancer, which gives you time to form a treatment plan with your cancer team. There are several treatment options that can help increase your chances of a full recovery.

Treatment varies depending on the stage of your cancer. Small tumors in the breast that have not yet spread may be removed in a lumpectomy. This procedure is a scaled down version of a full mastectomy. In a lumpectomy, only part of the breast tissue is removed. In a mastectomy, an entire breast is removed with or without the underlying muscle and connective tissue.

Hormonal therapy, also called anti-estrogen therapy, or chemotherapy may be used to shrink tumors before surgery. You may need radiation after a lumpectomy to make sure all of the cancer cells have been destroyed.

Your doctor will help you form a care plan that’s personalized based on your health, using the most current technologies available.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage invasive lobular carcinoma?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with invasive lobular carcinoma:

  • Learn enough about your cancer to make treatment decisions. Ask your doctor for details about your cancer — the type, stage and treatment options. The more you know, the more comfortable you may feel when making treatment decisions. Ask your doctor to recommend good sources of information where you can learn more.
  • Seek support from family and friends. Your close friends and family provide a support system that can help you cope during treatment. They can help you with the small tasks around the house you may not have the energy for during treatment. And they can be there to listen when you need to talk with someone.
  • Connect with other cancer survivors. Other cancer survivors can offer unique support and insight because they understand what you’re experiencing. Connect with other cancer survivors through support groups in your community.
  • Take care of yourself. During your treatment, allow yourself time to rest. Take good care of your body by getting enough sleep so that you wake feeling rested, choosing a diet full of fruits and vegetables, staying as physically active as you’re able, and taking time to relax. Try to maintain at least some of your daily routine, including social activities.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: November 20, 2017 | Last Modified: November 20, 2017

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