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Invasive Lobular Carcinoma: What You Need to Know

What is Invasive Lobular Carcinoma?

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma is a kind of breast cancer that begins in the breast's milk-producing glands (lobules) and then spreads to nearby tissues. It tends to have a unique growth pattern and can be more challenging to detect on imaging than other breast cancers.


What are the Symptoms of Invasive Lobular Carcinoma? 

  1. Breast Lump or Thickening: A common symptom is the presence of a new lump or an area of thickened tissue in the breast. Unlike other breast cancers, ILC might not always form a distinct lump, making it harder to detect through self-exams or routine screenings.

  2. Changes in Shape or Size of Breast: Changes in the breast's size or form might result from ILC. It might manifest as an asymmetrical appearance or an overall alteration in breast contours.

  3. Breast Pain or Discomfort: Some individuals with ILC experience discomfort, tenderness, or mild pain in the affected breast. However, this symptom is not exclusive to ILC and can occur for various reasons.

  4. Nipple Changes: Changes in the nipple, such as inversion, scaling, or discharge (other than breast milk), might indicate ILC. These changes can occur due to the cancer's effect on surrounding tissues.

  5. Skin Changes: ILC can cause subtle skin changes, such as dimpling or an "orange peel" texture, resembling the appearance of cellulite. These changes occur due to the tumour's impact on the connective tissues.

  6. Spread to Nearby Areas: As ILC progresses, it may spread to neighbouring lymph nodes in the collarbone or beneath the arm. It might lead to swelling, tenderness, or a lump in these areas.


What are the Causes of Invasive Lobular Carcinoma?

  1. Hormonal Factors: Hormones like oestrogen and progesterone play a role in breast tissue development. Exposure to high levels of these hormones over time, such as in hormone replacement therapy or prolonged use of oral contraceptives, can increase ILC risk.

  2. Genetic Predisposition: Specific gene mutations, such as those in BRCA1 and BRCA2, are linked to an elevated risk of breast cancer, including ILC. A family history of breast or ovarian cancer can also elevate the risk.

  3. Age and Gender: ILC is more commonly diagnosed in postmenopausal women. The risk increases with age, and women are generally at higher risk than men.

  4. Personal History: A history of non-invasive lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or other forms of breast cancer increases the risk of developing ILC.

  5. Lifestyle Factors: Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption, and a high-fat diet are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, including ILC.

  6. Reproductive Factors: Late first pregnancy, having no children, or starting menstruation at an early age can contribute to a higher risk due to prolonged exposure to estrogen without the protective effects of pregnancy and breastfeeding.


How is Invasive Lobular Carcinoma Diagnosed? 

Diagnosing Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) involves a combination of imaging, biopsies, and pathological analysis. The process may include:

  1. Mammography: X-ray images of the breast tissue are used in mammograms, frequently employed as screening tools for abnormalities. However, due to its unique growth pattern, ILC might not always appear as a distinct mass on mammograms.

  2. Ultrasound: Sound Waves are used in ultrasound imaging to produce images of breast tissue. It can help differentiate between solid masses and fluid-filled cysts, aiding in diagnosing ILC.

  3. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): MRI scans provide detailed images of the breast, offering valuable information about the extent and size of the tumour. It's beneficial in cases where mammography and ultrasound results are inconclusive.

  4. Biopsy: A tissue biopsy is essential to confirm the presence of cancer. A small sample of the suspect tissue is taken and inspected under a microscope to check for cancer cells. For ILC, a core needle biopsy or surgical biopsy might be performed.

  5. Pathological Analysis: Once a biopsy confirms cancer, pathologists analyze the tissue to determine the type of cancer (such as ILC), its grade, hormone receptor status, and other specific characteristics. This information guides treatment decisions.

  6. Lymph Node Evaluation: If cancer is confirmed, nearby lymph nodes may also be biopsied to check for cancer cell spread.

  7. Genetic Testing: Depending on family history and other factors, genetic testing might be considered to identify any inherited mutations that could contribute to developing ILC.


How is Invasive Lobular Carcinoma Treated?  

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) treatment depends on factors like the stage of the cancer, its hormone receptor status, and overall health. Common approaches include:

  1. Surgery: Lumpectomy (removing the tumour and some surrounding tissue) or mastectomy (removing the entire breast) may be performed based on tumour size and patient preference.

  2. Lymph Node Surgery: Sentinel lymph node biopsy or axillary lymph node dissection might be done to check if the cells have spread to nearby lymph nodes.

  3. Radiation Therapy: After surgery, radiation may target any remaining cells and decrease the risk of recurrence, particularly after lumpectomy.

  4. Hormone Therapy: Since many ILCs are hormone receptor-positive, hormone-blocking medications like tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors are often prescribed to lower oestrogen levels and prevent cancer growth.

  5. Chemotherapy: Depending on the tumour's characteristics and stage, chemotherapy might be recommended to target cancer cells or reduce the recurrence risk.

  6. Targeted Therapies: In cases with specific molecular markers, targeted therapies like HER2 inhibitors might block growth signals in cancer cells.


What is the Prognosis for Invasive Lobular Carcinoma? 

The prognosis for Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) varies widely based on factors such as the stage at diagnosis, tumour characteristics, treatment received, and individual patient factors. Generally:

  1. Early Detection: If ILC is caught at an early stage (localised within the breast), the prognosis is generally favourable. Treatment options can often lead to successful outcomes with a lower risk of recurrence.

  2. Advanced Stage: In cases where ILC has spread to nearby lymph nodes or organs, the prognosis can be more challenging. However, advances in treatment have improved outcomes for advanced-stage breast cancer.

  3. Hormone Receptor Status: ILCs that are hormone receptor-positive tend to respond well to hormone therapy, which can positively impact prognosis.

  4. HER2 Status: HER2-positive ILCs may benefit from targeted therapies that specifically address the HER2 protein, improving the prognosis for this subgroup.

  5. Overall Health: Patient age, general health, and ability to tolerate treatments also influence prognosis.


How can I Prevent Invasive Lobular Carcinoma? 

Preventing Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) involves a combination of lifestyle choices and early detection strategies. While there's no guaranteed prevention, these steps can help reduce your risk:

  1. Healthy Diet: Maintain a balanced diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, fruits, proteins, and fats to support overall health and reduce cancer risk.

  2. Physical Activity: Exercise regularly, aiming for at least 75-150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity.

  3. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Strive to keep a healthy BMI through diet and exercise, as obesity has been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

  4. Limit Alcohol: Limit alcohol consumption to one daily drink for women and two for men.

  5. Breast feeding: If possible, breastfeed your children. Breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced chance of developing certain types of breast cancer.

  6. Hormone Therapy: It is essential to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of hormone replacement therapy. Minimise its use and explore alternatives, if possible.

  7. Regular Screenings: Adhere to recommended breast cancer screening guidelines, including mammograms and clinical breast exams, to detect abnormalities early.

  8. Know Your Risk: Discuss your family history with your doctor. Genetic counselling and testing may be considered if you have a family history of breast cancer.


What are the Risk Factors for Invasive Lobular Carcinoma?

Various factors influence the likelihood of acquiring Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC). These include:

  1. Gender and Age: Being female and getting older are significant risk factors. ILC is more common in postmenopausal women.

  2. Hormone Replacement Therapy: Prolonged hormone replacement therapy can elevate the risk, especially combined oestrogen-progestin therapy.

  3. Personal History: A history of non-invasive breast conditions, such as lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), increases the likelihood of developing ILC.

  4. Family History: A family history of breast cancer, especially if it's a first-degree relative (parent or sibling), raises the risk.

  5. Genetic Mutations: Inherited mutations in specific genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase the likelihood of breast cancer, including ILC.

  6. Hormone Receptor Status: ILC often expresses hormone receptors, particularly oestrogen and progesterone receptors, making individuals with hormone receptor-positive breast cancers more vulnerable.

  7. Radiation Exposure: Previous chest radiation treatment can elevate the risk, especially during childhood or adolescence.

  8. Reproductive Factors: Late first pregnancy, having no children, starting menstruation early, and entering menopause later are linked to a higher risk due to prolonged exposure to oestrogen. 


What are the Complications of Invasive Lobular Carcinoma? 

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) and its treatments can lead to various complications:

  1. Cancer Spread: If not treated promptly, ILC can spread to nearby lymph nodes, other parts of the breast, and distant organs, leading to more advanced stages of cancer.

  2. Recurrence: Despite treatment, there's a risk of cancer recurrence in the same breast or other parts of the body.

  3. Lymphedema: Surgery or radiation therapy can disrupt the lymphatic system, causing lymphedema—swelling and fluid buildup—in the arm or chest area.

  4. Surgical Complications: Mastectomy or lumpectomy can lead to infection, poor wound healing, or cosmetic changes that affect body image.

  5. Side Effects of Treatment: Chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapies can cause side effects like fatigue, nausea, hair loss, and increased risk of infection.

  6. Bone Health: Hormone therapy and specific treatments can weaken bones, increasing the risk of fractures or osteoporosis.

  7. Heart Health: Some treatments, like certain chemotherapy drugs, might impact heart health, particularly in individuals with pre existing heart conditions.

  8. Emotional and Psychological Impact: Coping with a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and potential changes in body image can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression.


What Should I Do if I Have Invasive Lobular Carcinoma?

  1. Consult with Specialists: Seek consultation with a team of healthcare professionals specialising in breast cancer, including medical oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, and pathologists.

  2. Understand Your Diagnosis: Take time to understand your diagnosis, including the stage, grade, and hormone receptor status of the cancer. This information guides treatment decisions.

  3. Discuss Treatment Options: Work with your healthcare team to discuss treatment options tailored to your case. Treatment might involve surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or targeted therapies.

  4. Ask Questions: Don't hesitate to ask your medical team any questions you have about the diagnosis, treatment plan, potential side effects, and expected outcomes.

  5. Consider a Second Opinion: It's perfectly reasonable to seek a second opinion to ensure you are comfortable with the recommended treatment plan.

  • How does breast cancer start?
    Breast cancer begins when breast cells grow abnormally. These cells can divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate, forming a lump or mass. The exact causes of breast cancer are not fully understood, but there are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing the disease. These include: Age: Breast cancer is most common in women over the age of 50. Family history: Having a family history of breast cancer increases your risk of developing the disease. Genetics: Some women have inherited genes that increase their risk of breast cancer. Lifestyle factors: Certain lifestyle factors, such as being overweight or obese, not exercising regularly, and drinking alcohol, can also increase your risk of breast cancer.
  • Who is at high risk for breast cancer?
    Women who are at high risk for breast cancer include those who: Are over the age of 50. Have a family history of breast cancer. They have inherited genes that raise their chances of developing breast cancer. Certain medical conditions include dense breasts and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Chest radiation. Have had certain types of breast cancer in the past.
  • How to avoid breast cancer?
    You can't guarantee breast cancer prevention, but there are actions that can reduce your risk, like: Get regular mammograms keep a healthy weight Exercise often Limit alcohol Eat a healthy diet. Avoid smoking.
  • Can breast cancer be cured?
    Breast cancer can be cured in many cases, especially if it is caught early. However, the chances of a cure decrease as the cancer progresses.
  • What are the early signs of breast cancer?
    The first signs of breast cancer may include: A lump in the breast. Breast size or shape has changed. Dimpling of the skin. Nipple discharge. Changes in the nipple. If you notice any of these signs, it is important to see a doctor right away. Finding breast cancer early is crucial for successful treatment.
  • How do you detect breast cancer?
    There are a number of ways to detect breast cancer, including: Mammograms: Mammograms are an X-ray of the breasts that can help to detect breast cancer early. Clinical breast exams: Clinical breast exams are performed by a doctor to feel for any lumps or abnormalities in the breasts. Breast self-exams: Breast self-exams are a way for women to check their own breasts for any lumps or abnormalities.
  • Where does breast cancer spread?
    Breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones, liver, and lungs. The most common place for breast cancer to spread is to the lymph nodes under the arm.
  • Which breast cancer is most aggressive?
    The most aggressive kind of breast cancer is called triple-negative breast cancer. It doesn't respond to estrogen, progesterone, or HER2.
  • When breast cancer spreads to the brain, how long to live?
    The prognosis for breast cancer that has spread to the brain depends on a number of factors, including the stage of the cancer and the patient's overall health. However, in general, the prognosis is not good.
  • What does breast cancer look like?
    Breast cancer can look different in different people. It may appear as a lump in the breast, a change in the shape or size of the breast, dimpling of the skin, nipple discharge, or changes in the nipple.
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