Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) is a breast cancer that has spread beyond the lobules and ducts, potentially spreading to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body.

How Common is Invasive Lobular Carcinoma?

Although ILC can affect patients at any age, it is more common as people grow older.

It is the second most common invasive cancer, with around 15-20% of all breast cancers being diagnosed as ILC.

What are the Symptoms of Invasive Lobular Carcinoma?

Some patients diagnosed with ILC may not present with any symptoms. When symptoms are present, they may include:

  • A new lump in the breast, armpit area or around the collarbone
  • Thickening or hardening in the breast
  • A change in breast size or shape
  • Changes to the nipple, such as sores or crusting, an ulcer or inverted nipple
  • Clear or bloody nipple discharge
  • Changes to the skin including redness, puckering or dimpling (an ‘orange peel’ appearance)
  • Breast tenderness or pain

How is Invasive Lobular Carcinoma Diagnosed?

ILC is more difficult to see on imaging because of the way the cells grow through the breast tissue. ILC typically grows in a line rather than a mass, so it’s often hard to see the full extent of the disease on a mammogram. Further imaging with an ultrasound and breast MRI is sometimes required.

How is Invasive Lobular Carcinoma Treated?

ILC are typically oestrogen receptor positive breast cancers, which makes them sensitive to the anti-hormonal medications such as tamoxifen. Treatment for ILC also may include breast surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is less likely to be used for ILC compared with other breast cancer types, because they tend to be more responsive to anti-hormonal treatments.

What are my chances of Survival (prognosis) if I am Diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Carcinoma?

Typically, invasive lobular carcinoma tumours are associated with a good prognosis, being low grade and oestrogen receptor positive. However, the tumour can be diagnosed or progress to a metastatic stage.

Your age, stage of disease and tumour type has the greatest impact on your chance of surviving five years past your breast cancer diagnosis. Those diagnosed with stage one breast cancer have an almost 100% chance of surviving five years post diagnosis, however those diagnosed with stage four breast cancer only have a 32% chance of surviving five years post diagnosis.

Overall, the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is 91.5%, and 86.4% for men.

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