What is Invasive Lobular Carcinoma?

Invasive Lobular Carcinoma or ILC, is the second most common form of breast cancer after invasive ductal carcinoma. It is invasive meaning that it can spread or invade into the surrounding breast tissue. ILC is usually (but not always) positive for the oestrogen receptor and the progesterone receptor.

This cancer is commonly found in women aged 45-55, although it can affect anyone.

1 in 10 women with breast cancer will have ILC, as it accounts for 10-15% of all breast cancers.

Unique Characteristics of ILC

One of the hallmarks of ILC is loss of an adhesion molecule called E-cadherin, this can lead to growth of cancer cells in a single-file pattern. This means the ILC doesn’t always present as a lump in the breast tissue. Symptoms of ILC could include hardening or swelling of the breast, changes in the appearance of nipple and skin changes.

ILC may show up in one or both breasts, and may create more than one tumour in the breasts.

ILC can be difficult to diagnose as it not always easy to see by usual imaging tools. This leads to ILC being potentially diagnosed later than other forms of breast cancer.

Treatment options for ILC


  • Mastectomy: Surgery to remove the tumour is the generally the first treatment. Part of the breast may be removed. If the cancer is affecting more than one area in the breast, it is likely the whole breast will have to be removed. This is known as a mastectomy.
  • Axillary clearance: Surgery to remove lymph nodes in your armpit. This may be done if the cancer has spread there.

Potential treatments after surgery

  • Radiotherapy: This treatment is usually given to people who only had part of the breast removed
  • Chemotherapy: This treatment is given if the tumour was large or was found in the lymph nodes
  • Hormone Therapy: Most Invasive Lobular Breast cancers are oestrogen-receptor positive. If your cancer has hormone receptors (ER+), you may be given a treatment of hormone therapy drugs.

During treatment

  • Drink plenty of water before your blood tests & chemo treatments. Keep your arm warm before treatment, this helps when looking for veins.
  • Don’t suffer, if you are feeling constantly sick contact the oncology nurse who can change your anti sickness drugs over the phone with the pharmacist. Works a treat for some.
  • Always ask again if you are unsure of something. 

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