Invasive Lobular Carcinoma: Symptoms & Causes

Published: September 26, 2023

Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC), is the second most common type of breast cancer.

Lobular cancers, also known as lobular tumors or lobular carcinomas, originate in the lobule, the milk-producing glands. If not detected early, these invasive cancers can rapidly metastasize to the surrounding breast tissue and lymph nodes if not detected early.

What causes lobular cancer?

Scientists know that ILC occurs when the cells in your breast develops mutations, but they are yet to understand exactly what triggers these mutations. However, there are certain risk factors that can increase your chance of developing invasive lobular carcinoma, including:

  • Sex: Women are more likely to develop ILC than men

  • Age: Most people diagnosed are over 55

  • Genes: Predispositions/Inherited genes are a major factor

  • Hormone therapy: Women taking hormone therapy to relieve menopause symptoms may be more at risk

How can I lower my risk of developing invasive lobular cancer?

Even if you fall into one of the risk categories, there are still things you can do to help lower your risk. Some of the most effective ways include:

  • Take a low-dose hormone therapy to relieve menopause symptoms, and only take it for a short amount of time

  • If you drink alcohol, drink no more than one drink per day

  • Quit smoking

  • Try to maintain a healthy weight

  • Take regular exercise, including cardio, to help strengthen your body and maintain your physical and mental health

  • Make sure you for have frequent screenings for early detection

What are the signs and symptoms of invasive lobular carcinoma?

Unlike other types of breast cancers, invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) doesn’t typically create lumps in the breast tissue. This distinguishes ILC from invasive ductal carcinoma and other lobular carcinomas. However, there are other signs and symptoms you need to watch out for:

  • An area of your breast that is hard or thicker than normal

  • An inverted nipple

  • A new area of fullness or swelling on your breast

  • Nipple discharge that is not breast milk

  • Dimpling puckering of the skin

  • Redness or scaling around your nipple or breast

  • Lumps or swelling under your arm

  • Breast pain

If patients have any symptoms of a disease, they should make an appointment with their doctor for treatment and care as soon as possible.

How is lobular breast cancer diagnosed?

If your doctor or oncologists thinks there may be a risk that you have invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) or invasive lobular breast cancer, they will arrange for you to have one or more of the following tests:

  • Mammogram – A low dose x-ray to check for anything unusual

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – An imaging test that uses sound waves to create a picture of your breasts. Sometimes used in conjunction with a mammogram

  • Ultrasound – Also an imaging test, but this time using radio waves and magnets to form a detailed picture

  • Biopsy – If the other tests show anything requiring further investigation you may need to undergo a biopsy. This is when a small piece of breast tissue is removed using a needle and sent to a lab for testing.

Is Invasive Lobular Carcinoma treatable?

The good news is that Invasive Lobular Carcinoma is very treatable, especially with early detection. Invasive lobular breast cancer (ILC) is a slow-growing tumor. The five-year survival rate for those with early treatment of invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) is close to 100%.

If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, your oncologist will assign a stage to your cancer based on the size of tumour, location and how far it has spread:

  • Stage I:  The cancer is only in a small area in the breast and hasn’t spread to other parts of the body like the lymph nodes

  • Stage II:  The tumor has grown but is still contained and isn’t spreading

  • Stage III:  The cancer that has expanded and is now in other parts of the breast such as the tissue

  • Stage IV:  The cancer has spread into organs or other parts of the body. It’s also sometimes called metastatic cancer

Your oncologist and medical team will discuss the surgery and therapy options with you, especially for patients with a tumor.

What is the treatment for Invasive Lobular Carcinoma?

The treatment you receive will depend on the location, size and spread of the tumor. The most common treatments for ILC include.

  • Surgery
    Depending on the size and location of the tumor, surgery may be an option. Surgery for invasive lobular carcinoma typically involves either a mastectomy or a lumpectomy.

  • Chemotherapy
    Chemotherapy may be used to shrink the tumor before surgery, or after surgery to make sure any remaining cancer cells are completely removed or destroyed.

  • Radiation Therapy
    The goal of radiation treatment is to eliminate any remaining cancer cells after surgery. It involves focusing high-energy radiation on the affected area.

  • Endocrine Therapy (Hormone Blockade)
    Endocrine therapy prevents the body from producing hormones. This helps suppress the growth of cancer tissues and is often administered after radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery. It’s usually given via an oral medication or a series of injections.

  • Targeted therapy
    This treatment focuses on specific characteristics of the cancer cells to eliminate them. Unlike chemotherapy, targeted therapy is less likely to harm healthy cells.

Do you want to save your hair on chemo?

You can find out more about cold capping by reading our article: What is cold cap therapy?

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, specifically Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, and are interested in finding out how you can save your hair during chemotherapy after undergoing tumor surgery, get in touch with us. We specialize in helping patients like you.

Our friendly and knowledgeable representatives are here to help you every step of the way and offer as much support and advice as you need during your treatment. Many of our representatives (75%, in fact!) have used our cold caps themselves.

Our professional Cold Cappers will even arrange everything for you, including liaising with your clinic directly and attend treatment with you should you choose to opt for their services.

Contact us today to request a free consultation with one of our specialists today!

Many breast cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy treatment for Invasive Lobular Carcinoma have found success using Penguin Cold Cap. On average, they’ve saved between 60% and 90% of their hair with cold capping.

Christine cold cap during chemo

Christine was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Carcinoma in 2021.

She underwent surgery followed by chemo and used Penguin Cold Caps to save her hair during treatment. She said, “Apart from my hair being a little thinner, mainly around my ears, I don’t think anyone else could see that I’d lost any hair at all.”

Read Christine’s story