Invasive Lobular Carcinoma


Invasive Lobular Carcinoma is a type of breast cancer that starts in the milk-producing glands (lobules) of the breast and then invades nearby tissues. It’s called “invasive” because it has the potential to spread beyond the original site. ILC is known for its unique behavior compared to other types of breast cancer. Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) is a type of breast cancer that originates in the milk-producing glands known as lobules. It’s the second most common type of breast cancer after Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC). Unlike some other breast cancers, ILC doesn’t usually form a lump that can be easily felt. Instead, it tends to grow in a subtle, scattered manner within the breast tissue. This sneaky growth pattern can make it harder to detect through routine exams or mammograms. ILC cells often look similar to normal breast cells under the microscope. This can sometimes make it challenging for pathologists to distinguish them from healthy tissue, leading to potential misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.

Types of Invasive Lobular Carcinoma:

  1. Classic Invasive Lobular Carcinoma: This is the most common type. It starts in the milk-producing lobules of the breast and spreads to nearby tissues over time. Think of it as a slow and steady growth that needs to be detected and treated early.
  2. Pleomorphic Invasive Lobular Carcinoma: “Pleomorphic” might sound complicated, but it simply means that the cancer cells look different from each other under a microscope. This type tends to be more aggressive and may need more intensive treatment.
  3. Solid Variant: This type is characterized by groups of cancer cells that stick together, forming solid sheets. It’s important to catch this type early, as it can sometimes be mistaken for non-cancerous conditions.
  4. Alveolar Variant: Imagine cancer cells arranged in a pattern that resembles the air sacs in the lungs. This variant is less common but also requires timely diagnosis and treatment.
  5. Tubulolobular Variant: Here, cancer cells form both tubular and lobular structures. Tubular structures are like tiny tubes, and lobular structures are like lobes. This mix can make it a bit trickier to identify.


It’s the second most common type of breast cancer, following invasive ductal carcinoma. Let’s unravel the causes of this medical condition. We’ll explain everything in simple terms so you can easily understand.

1. Age: The older a woman gets, the higher her risk. Simply put, as birthdays pile up, so does the risk of ILC.

2. Gender: Being a woman increases your risk. Though men can get breast cancer, it’s far more common in women.

3. Genetics: If mom, sis, or grandma had breast cancer, your risk might be higher. It’s all in the family genes sometimes.

4. Inherited mutations: Some families have genes, like BRCA1 or BRCA2, that make breast cancer more likely.

5. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Women who use HRT, especially for a long time after menopause, may have a raised risk.

6. Early menstruation: If a girl’s period starts before age 12, her breast cancer risk may be a tad higher in the future.

7. Late menopause: Women who have their menopause after age 55 also have an increased risk.

8. Never giving birth: Women who’ve never had a baby might have a slightly higher risk.

9. First child after 30: Having your first child after age 30? This can raise the ILC risk a bit.

10. Dense breast tissue: Dense breasts mean more gland tissue and less fatty tissue. This makes cancers harder to spot and ups the risk.

11. Prior breast conditions: Having certain non-cancerous breast diseases can up the risk.

12. Radiation exposure: If you’ve been exposed to radiation, especially during your teens, your risk may increase.

13. Alcohol: A glass of wine might be relaxing, but excessive drinking over time can heighten the risk.

14. Hormonal birth control: Some studies suggest that women using certain hormonal birth controls have a slightly elevated risk.

15. Obesity: Carrying extra weight, especially post-menopause, can make ILC more likely.

16. Not breastfeeding: Breastfeeding might have protective effects against breast cancer.

17. History of ovarian cancer: A personal history of ovarian cancer can elevate the risk.

18. Ashkenazi Jewish heritage: Women of this descent may have a higher likelihood of BRCA mutations.

19. Prior chest radiation: Radiation treatments for other cancers in the chest area, especially during youth, might increase the risk.

20. Diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure: Some older women given DES (a drug to prevent miscarriage) might have a higher risk.

21. Age at first radiation exposure: Being younger at first exposure can up the risk.

22. Not having full-term pregnancies: Never having a full-term pregnancy might slightly raise the risk.

23. High bone density: Surprisingly, women with bones denser than average might face a higher risk.

24. High-fat diet: Diets super-rich in fat might contribute slightly.

25. Tall height: Some studies suggest that taller women have a slightly raised risk.

26. Lack of physical activity: Being a couch potato might not only affect your waistline but your ILC risk too.

27. Exposure to estrogen: The more extended exposure to estrogen over a lifetime, the higher the risk might be.

28. Socio-economic factors: Some research suggests women in higher socioeconomic groups have a raised risk, possibly due to factors like diet or reproductive habits.

29. Working night shifts: Studies hint that night shift workers may have a slightly heightened risk, possibly due to sleep cycle disruptions.

30. Environmental factors: Some factors, like exposure to certain chemicals, might contribute, but more research is needed.


Let’s dive into the top symptoms

  1. Lump in the Breast: This is a classic symptom. You might feel a hard knot or a thickened area in your breast. However, ILC might not always cause a distinct lump.
  2. Change in Breast Size: One breast might look bigger or differently shaped than the other.
  3. Skin Changes: The skin on the breast might appear red, dimpled, or look like an orange peel.
  4. Breast Pain: Some women may experience pain or discomfort in the breast. This pain is not necessarily sharp; it can be a dull ache.
  5. Nipple Changes: The nipple might turn inward, or you might notice a rash or redness around it.
  6. Nipple Discharge: Sometimes there’s a clear or bloody liquid coming out of the nipple. This isn’t breast milk.
  7. Swelling: Part of the breast or the whole breast might look swollen.
  8. Thickening of the Breast Skin: This isn’t just regular tenderness. The skin might feel thicker or harder.
  9. Veins Becoming More Visible: If you notice more or enlarged veins on the breast’s surface, it could be a sign.
  10. Change in Breast Texture: The breast might feel hard, grainy, or have a different texture when you touch it.
  11. Breast Skin Pitting: This means the skin has small dents, similar to the skin of an orange.
  12. Irritation or Itching: The breast might feel itchy, or the skin might look irritated.
  13. The feeling of Warmth: The breast might feel warm when you touch it, almost like a mild fever.
  14. Change in Lymph Nodes: Lymph nodes are small, bean-sized glands around the body. Those under the arm or near the breast might swell or become tender.
  15. Breast Asymmetry: If one breast starts to look different from the other, in shape or size, it’s worth noting.
  16. Change in the Breast Contour: The overall shape or outline of the breast might change.
  17. Long-lasting Pain: This is pain that doesn’t go away even after your menstrual cycle.
  18. Breast Tenderness: It’s more than the usual sensitivity you might feel during your period.
  19. Lump in the Armpit: Sometimes, instead of the breast, you might feel a lump under the arm.
  20. Unexplained Fatigue: Although more general, persistent fatigue can sometimes accompany breast cancer.


Diagnosis of Invasive Lobular Carcinoma:

  1. Clinical Examination: During a clinical exam, a doctor checks for unusual lumps, changes in breast size or shape, and other signs of breast abnormalities.
  2. Mammogram: A mammogram is an X-ray of the breast tissue. It can help detect tumors that are too small to be felt during a physical exam.
  3. Ultrasound: Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the breast tissue. It helps differentiate between fluid-filled cysts and solid masses.
  4. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of the breast. It’s useful for assessing the extent of cancer and detecting hidden tumors.
  5. Biopsy: A biopsy involves removing a small sample of tissue from the suspicious area for examination under a microscope. There are different types of biopsies:
    • Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA): A thin needle is used to extract cells from the lump.
    • Core Needle Biopsy: A slightly larger needle is used to remove a small piece of tissue.
    • Surgical Biopsy: A surgical procedure to remove a larger tissue sample.

Key Tests for Invasive Lobular Carcinoma:

  1. Histopathology: The tissue sample obtained from a biopsy is examined by a pathologist. They determine if cancer is present, its type (including ILC), and its characteristics.
  2. Estrogen Receptor (ER) and Progesterone Receptor (PR) Testing: These tests determine if cancer cells have receptors for estrogen and progesterone. Hormone receptor-positive tumors can respond to hormone therapy.
  3. HER2/neu Testing: This test checks for the presence of a protein called HER2/neu. Tumors that overexpress this protein are known as HER2-positive and may respond to targeted therapies.
  4. Ki-67 Labeling Index: This test measures the rate of cell division in the tumor. It helps predict the tumor’s aggressiveness.
  5. Genetic Testing: Genetic tests like BRCA1 and BRCA2 assess the risk of inherited mutations that increase the likelihood of breast cancer.
  6. Lymph Node Biopsy: To determine if cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, a sample may be taken from them and examined.
  7. CT Scan (Computed Tomography): CT scans create cross-sectional images of the body. They help assess whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
  8. Bone Scan: A bone scan can detect cancer that has spread to the bones. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein, and a scanner detects its uptake in the bones.
  9. PET-CT Scan (Positron Emission Tomography – Computed Tomography): This scan provides information about the metabolic activity of cells, helping identify areas where cancer may have spread.
  10. Breast Cancer Gene Expression Tests: Tests like Oncotype DX and Mammaprint analyze the genes in cancer cells to predict the risk of recurrence and guide treatment decisions.
  11. Liquid Biopsy: This test detects fragments of tumor DNA circulating in the blood. It can provide information about cancer’s genetic makeup and monitor treatment effectiveness.
  12. Chest X-ray: It’s used to check for any signs of cancer spread to the lungs.
  13. Liver Function Tests: These tests assess the health of the liver and whether cancer has spread there.
  14. Complete Blood Count (CBC): CBC measures various components of blood and can reveal changes caused by cancer.
  15. Hormone Level Testing: Measuring hormone levels helps determine the need for hormone therapy.
  16. Physical Examination under Anesthesia (EUA): In some cases, a thorough exam is done while the patient is under anesthesia to assess tumor size and lymph node involvement.
  17. Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy: This procedure helps identify the first lymph node where cancer might spread.
  18. Tumor Marker Tests: Tests like CA 15-3 and CA 27.29 measure specific proteins associated with breast cancer.
  19. Ultrasound-Guided Biopsy: An ultrasound is used to guide the biopsy needle more precisely to the target area.
  20. Breast MRI with Contrast: Contrast-enhanced MRI provides detailed images of blood vessels and abnormal tissue.
  21. Genomic Testing: Examines the genes in the cancer cells to guide personalized treatment.
  22. Endoscopic Biopsy: A thin, flexible tube with a camera (endoscope) is used to guide a biopsy needle to the tumor.
  23. Immunohistochemistry (IHC): This technique uses antibodies to detect specific proteins in the tumor, aiding in diagnosis and treatment decisions.
  24. Ductal Lavage or Ductal Fluid Cytology: Examines cells from the milk ducts to detect abnormal changes.
  25. Positron Emission Mammography (PEM): A specialized type of mammogram that can help detect small tumors.
  26. Genetic Counseling: Helps individuals understand their genetic risks and make informed decisions.
  27. Circulating Tumor Cell Test: Detects cancer cells in the blood, providing insight into metastatic potential.
  28. HER2 Dual In Situ Hybridization (DISH) Test: Confirms HER2 status using both immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization.
  29. Staging Tests: Various imaging tests and assessments are done to determine the stage of cancer and its extent.
  30. Imaging-Guided Biopsy: Imaging techniques like MRI or ultrasound guide the placement of the biopsy needle.


Effective treatments for Invasive Lobular Carcinoma in simple terms,

1. Surgery: Surgery is a common treatment for ILC. It involves removing the tumor and surrounding tissue. Two main types are lumpectomy (removing the tumor) and mastectomy (removing the entire breast).

2. Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells or stop their growth. It’s often used before or after surgery to shrink tumors and prevent recurrence.

3. Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to target and destroy cancer cells. It’s usually given after surgery to eliminate any remaining cancer cells.

4. Hormone Therapy: Hormone therapy blocks hormones that fuel some types of breast cancer. It’s beneficial for ILC because this cancer often responds to hormone treatment.

5. Targeted Therapy: Targeted therapy focuses on specific molecules involved in cancer growth. It can help block the growth and spread of ILC cells.

6. Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy boosts the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. It’s an innovative treatment that shows promise in some cases of ILC.

7. Aromatase Inhibitors: Aromatase inhibitors are drugs that lower estrogen levels in postmenopausal women, slowing the growth of hormone-sensitive ILC.

8. Tamoxifen: Tamoxifen is another hormone therapy drug that blocks estrogen’s effects on cancer cells. It’s used for both pre- and postmenopausal women.

9. HER2-Targeted Therapy: HER2-positive ILC can be treated with targeted therapies that focus on the HER2 protein, inhibiting its growth.

10. Clinical Trials: Clinical trials test new treatments to determine their effectiveness. Participating in a trial can provide access to cutting-edge therapies.

11. Breast Reconstruction: After a mastectomy, breast reconstruction surgery can help restore a woman’s physical appearance and self-confidence.

12. Lymph Node Removal: During surgery, nearby lymph nodes might be removed to check for the spread of cancer.

13. Cryoablation: Cryoablation uses extreme cold to destroy cancer cells. It’s a minimally invasive option for smaller tumors.

14. Radiofrequency Ablation: This technique uses heat to destroy cancer cells and is also a minimally invasive choice for smaller tumors.

15. Breast-Conserving Surgery: Also known as lumpectomy, this surgery removes the tumor while preserving the breast. It’s often followed by radiation.

16. Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy: In this procedure, only the lymph nodes most likely to contain cancer are removed and examined.

17. Proton Therapy: Proton therapy is a precise form of radiation that targets cancer cells while minimizing damage to nearby healthy tissues.

18. Pain Management: Pain management techniques are crucial to improve the patient’s quality of life during and after treatments.

19. Palliative Care: Palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms and improving comfort, especially in advanced stages of cancer.

20. Breast MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) can help in accurate tumor detection and planning treatments.

21. Genetic Testing and Counseling: Testing for inherited gene mutations can help guide treatment decisions, and counseling provides emotional support.

22. Support Groups: Joining support groups can offer emotional and psychological assistance during the cancer journey.

23. Endocrine Therapy: This hormone-based treatment is effective in hormone receptor-positive ILC, hindering cancer cell growth.

24. Bisphosphonates: These drugs help strengthen bones and prevent bone loss, which can be an issue during cancer treatments.

25. Exercise and Diet: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through exercise and a balanced diet can positively impact treatment outcomes.

26. Mind-Body Techniques: Practices like meditation and yoga can reduce stress and enhance well-being during treatment.

27. Acupuncture: Acupuncture might help manage treatment-related side effects like pain and nausea.

28. Pain Relief Medications: Prescribed pain relief medications can alleviate the discomfort associated with cancer and its treatments.

29. Alternative Therapies: Some patients find relief in alternative therapies like herbal supplements, although these should be discussed with medical professionals.

30. Second Opinions: Seeking a second opinion can offer a fresh perspective on treatment options and boost confidence in decisions.


Invasive Lobular Carcinoma drug treatments

  1. Tamoxifen: Imagine your cell has a ‘welcome mat’ for harmful hormones. Tamoxifen removes this mat so those hormones can’t enter and cause trouble.
  2. Anastrozole (Arimidex): This is a hormone therapy. It reduces estrogen in post-menopausal women, since too much estrogen can sometimes feed breast cancers.
  3. Letrozole (Femara): Another ‘estrogen reducer’ for post-menopausal women. Just think of it as putting the cancer on a strict diet where its favorite food is scarce.
  4. Exemestane (Aromasin): One more in the group of ‘estrogen reducers’. By now, you know the drill: less estrogen, less food for some breast cancers.
  5. Fulvestrant (Faslodex): This is like a bouncer for your cell’s club. It blocks and damages the hormone receptors, meaning troublemakers can’t get in.
  6. Trastuzumab (Herceptin): Some cancers have a lot of HER2 proteins. Think of HER2 as evil flags. Trastuzumab targets cells with these flags.
  7. Pertuzumab (Perjeta): Works alongside Trastuzumab. It’s like having two guards instead of one against those cells with the evil HER2 flags.
  8. T-DM1 (Kadcyla): This is a combo drug. Trastuzumab (the guard) is combined with a chemo drug. It’s like the guard having a secret weapon.
  9. Palbociclib (Ibrance), Ribociclib (Kisqali), and Abemaciclib (Verzenio): These drugs put the brakes on cancer cells, slowing their growth. Imagine slowing down a naughty child running with scissors.
  10. Olaparib (Lynparza) and talazoparib (Talzenna): These target cells with BRCA mutations. Think of BRCA as a broken lock. These drugs capitalize on that vulnerability.
  11. Capecitabine (Xeloda): This chemo drug damages the DNA of cancer cells. It’s like spilling coffee on a computer – it messes up the system.
  12. Docetaxel (Taxotere) and Paclitaxel (Taxol): These stop cancer cells from dividing. Imagine freezing a scene in a movie.
  13. Eribulin (Halaven): Another one that stops cancer cells from multiplying. The more, the merrier, but not in the case of cancer.
  14. Doxorubicin (Adriamycin): A chemo drug that damages cancer cell DNA. Think of it as a glitch in the enemy’s plan.
  15. Cyclophosphamide: A two-in-one drug. It kills cancer cells and boosts the immune system. It’s like having a warrior and a healer in a video game.
  16. Methotrexate: This one also interferes with the DNA of cancer cells. More glitches for our enemy!
  17. Fluorouracil: Stops cells during a growth phase. Imagine pausing a video right before the climax.
  18. Carboplatin and Cisplatin: These are platinum-based chemo drugs. They’re like throwing a wrench in the cancer cell’s machinery.
  19. Everolimus (Afinitor): It targets a specific pathway cancer cells use to grow. Imagine blocking an escape route.
  20. Gemcitabine (Gemzar): This interferes with the creation of new DNA. Think of it as a no-entry sign.


Invasive Lobular Carcinoma presents various treatment paths, each with its own potential benefits. From traditional methods like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, to newer avenues like targeted therapy and immunotherapy, patients have options. It’s crucial to collaborate closely with healthcare professionals to decide on the best treatment plan tailored to individual needs. Staying informed, exploring available resources, and maintaining a positive outlook can greatly contribute to managing Invasive Lobular Carcinoma effectively.

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