Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC)

What is Invasive Lobular Carcinoma?

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC) is a form of breast cancer. This cancer focuses in on the glands that produce breast milk after having a baby. The term invasive cancer refers to the possibility that the cancer has developed past the lobule. This is when it begins to spread into the lymph nodes, or other tissues of the body.

This cancer makes up only a small number of all breast cancer types. It is not a cancer that is frequently diagnosed. A cancer type that falls under the name of invasive ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer diagnosed.

Most women who check themselves regularly for cancer are surprised to find out that invasive lobular carcinoma does not present with the expected lump. Instead, the primary sign that this cancer is present is a feeling of thickening or fullness in an isolated location in the breast.

What are the Symptoms of Invasive Lobular Carcinoma?

In the early stages of this cancer, there may not be any signs or symptoms that are present. As the cancer cells become more numerous, the cancerous tissue will cause issues.

Symptoms include

  • A thickening in the tissue where it is located.
  • An area of tissue that feels like swelling or fullness.
  • A color change in the skin over the affected area.
  • A change in texture or appearance.
  • The nipple becomes inverted, if it wasn’t previously.

This cancer is not as likely as others to cause a firm place or distinct lump in the breast. This makes it more difficult to detect with regular home monitoring. This cancer is usually detected during an annual mammogram or during a physician’s examination.

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma Causes

The cause of ILC is not fully known. The disease develops because of mutations in the DNA of the lobules – the glands that produce milk – which trigger uncontrolled cell growth. However, doctors do not know what triggers this process.

Although the ultimate cause of ILC is not known, researchers have identified some risk factors for the condition.

Age is one such factor, whereby the risk increases with age. If a close relative suffers from breast cancer, this increases your own risk. Specific genetic factors have been identified which are thought to play a role in causing ILC, namely the presence of genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2.

If you have had benign breast conditions, such as non-cancerous growths, your risk of developing ILC is greater than women who have not had such conditions.

Women who had their first pregnancy over the age of 30 are also at higher risk, as are women who have undergone hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after the menopause.

How is Invasive Lobular Carcinoma Treated?

Treatment options for cancers that fall into the category of invasive lobular carcinoma depend greatly on how far the cancer has progressed, and how aggressive the cancer is.

Treatments include

Treatment typically involves a surgical procedure which is typically followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy. It is very possible that your doctor will recommend a hormone therapy because of the location of the therapy.

The type of surgical procedure that your doctor determines is best will depend on a number of factors. However, the surgical options for this type of cancer include the following:

Removing the Cancerous Tissue, Along with a Small Portion of Healthy Tissue

This surgery is also referred to as a lumpectomy. The procedure prevents the full loss of breast tissue and is only focused on removing the lump that developed. Using an approach that removes the cancerous tissue, as well as a small amount of healthy tissue, the surgeon ensures that all of the cancer cells are removed and reduces the chance of a recurrence of the cancer.

Removing All of the Breast Tissue

The surgery to remove all of the tissue from a breast is called a mastectomy. This type of surgery is performed when the invasive cancer has spread to more than one part of the breast tissue. A more complete form of a mastectomy is the radical mastectomy. This surgery removes the breast tissue, the nipple and areola, as well as the lymph nodes located under the arm.

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma Prevention

There is no sure-fire way to prevent ILC, however, scientists have identified steps that individuals can take to reduce their risk.

Some preventive measures are lifestyle changes. These include maintaining a healthy body weight, eating a healthy, balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption.

Women who breastfeed their children also appear to be at lower risk of developing ILC and other forms of breast cancer.

If you are at high risk of developing breast cancer, doctors may prescribe drugs such as tamoxifen and raloxifene, which can reduce the risk of breast cancer by up to 50% in some people. In extreme cases, preventive mastectomy or oophorectomy (removal of ovaries) may be advised by doctors.

Perhaps the most important preventive measure is to receive screenings and genetic testing at appropriate time intervals so that, if detected, the appropriate treatment can be initiated as soon as possible.