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Invasive lobular breast cancer

Read about invasive lobular breast cancer and its treatment.

What invasive lobular breast cancer is

Invasive lobular breast cancer means that the cancer started in the cells that line the lobules and has spread into the surrounding breast tissue. The lobules are the glands that make milk when breastfeeding.

The outlook for invasive lobular breast cancer is much the same as for the most common type of invasive breast cancer, called No Special Type or NST.

Remember that if your doctor has told you that you have lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), you do not have invasive lobular breast cancer. These are two different things.

Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)

About invasive lobular breast cancer

More than 1 in 10 breast cancers diagnosed (12.2%) are invasive lobular carcinoma. This type can develop in women of any age. But it is most common in women between 45 and 55 years old.

Male breast cancer is rare. It is very unusual for a man to have an invasive lobular type of breast cancer.

Symptoms

Invasive lobular breast cancer does not always form a firm lump. You may have a thickened area of breast tissue instead of a definite lump.

Possible symptoms include:

  • an area of thickening or swelling
  • a change in the nipple, for example if it turns inwards (inverted)
  • a change in the skin, such as dimpling or thickening

While invasive lobular breast cancer can cause these particular symptoms, it’s worth being aware of the general symptoms of breast cancer.

Diagnosing invasive lobular breast cancer

You go to a specialist breast clinic. At the breast clinic the doctor or specialist nurse takes your medical history and examines your breasts. They also feel for any swollen (enlarged) lymph nodes under your arms and at the base of your neck.

You have some of the following tests:

  • a mammogram (an x-ray of the breasts)
  • an ultrasound (if you are under 35 you are more likely to have an ultrasound scan instead of a mammogram)
  • a biopsy – a small sample of cells or tissue is taken from your breast and looked at under a microscope

Treatment for invasive lobular breast

The treatment for invasive lobular breast cancer is the same as for the more common type of breast cancer (invasive breast cancer NST). Usually, you have surgery to remove the area of cancer and a surrounding area of healthy tissue (wide local excision). 

Invasive lobular breast cancer is sometimes found in more than one area within the breast. In that case, it may not be possible to remove just the area of the cancer. Your doctor may then recommend removal of the whole breast (a mastectomy).

If you choose to, you can have a new breast made (breast reconstruction) at the same time as mastectomy or some time afterwards. 

After the surgery you might have: 

  • radiotherapy
  • chemotherapy
  • biological therapy
  • a combination of these treatments

You might also have hormone therapy if your breast cancer cells have oestrogen receptors (they are oestrogen receptor positive). Oestrogen is a female sex hormone. It can cause some breast cancers to grow by stimulating particular receptors in the cancer cells.

Follow up

You have regular check ups once you finish your treatment. At your check up appointments your doctor or specialist nurse examines you and asks about your general health.

This is your chance to ask questions and to tell your doctor if anything is worrying you.

It’s important to remember that you can still contact someone if you are worried about a symptom between appointments. Don’t just leave it. Speak to your GP, or contact your consultant or specialist nurse.

How often you have check ups depends on your individual situation.

Trials and research

Many breast cancer trials are for people with invasive breast cancer. A trial might ask for a specific type of invasive breast cancer. But most trials include people with invasive lobular cancer and those with invasive breast cancer (No Special Type).

Breast cancer research is looking at:

  • the causes and prevention of breast cancer
  • screening and diagnosis
  • new treatments
  • ways to improve existing treatments
  • ways to cope with cancer and its treatment
Last reviewed: 
09 Nov 2016
  • Differences between invasive lobular and invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast: results and therapeutic implications
    R. Barroso-Sousa and O. Metzger-Filho
    Therapeutic Advances in Medical Oncology. 2016, Volume 8, Issue 4

  • Lobular breast cancer series; imaging.
    K. Jonsson and others
    Breast Cancer Research 2015. Volume 17, Issue 94

  • Male breast cancer is not congruent with the female disease.
    IS Fentiman
    Critical reviews in oncology/haematology. 2016, Volume 101

  • Statistical Information Team at Cancer Research UK

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