Invasive lobular carcinoma starts in breast glands

Lobules are glands in your breasts that create breast milk. The cells in the lobules grow and divide like normal cells. Each time they divide, they create a copy of the cell's DNA. Sometimes the copy has errors, making the new cell grow out of control. When this happens, you develop lobular carcinoma, a less common form of breast cancer.

If the cancer is only in lobular cells, it's called lobular carcinoma in situ. If cancer cells in the lobules spread to other areas of the breast, such as into breast ducts, or into nearby lymph nodes, it's called invasive lobular carcinoma.

What are the signs of invasive lobular carcinoma?

While most people associate breast cancer with finding a lump, lobular carcinoma doesn't form lumps. Instead, it causes part of your breast to become thicker or fuller than other areas. It may also change how the skin on your breast looks or cause your nipple to become dented in (inverted).

If your breasts begin to look or feel differently, you should speak to your doctor. Typically, breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) offers the best picture of invasive lobular carcinoma.

How is invasive lobular carcinoma treated?

Depending on how far invasive lobular carcinoma has spread in your breast, you may have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. During a lumpectomy, the doctor will remove just the areas affected by cancer, which lets you keep most of your breast tissue. During a mastectomy, your entire breast is removed.

Your surgeon will also remove nearby lymph nodes to test for cancer cells during a sentinel node biopsy. A pathologist, a doctor who specializes in identifying diseases from cells and tissues, checks your lymph nodes for cancer cells. If the pathologist finds cancer cells, your surgeon will remove more lymph nodes. If there are no cancer cells, you won't need any more lymph nodes removed.

Are there treatments after surgery?

After surgery, you'll spend a few weeks healing before you start the next part of treatment. If cancer has spread to your lymph nodes, cells may also have moved to other areas of your body.

Chemotherapy uses medicine to kill cancer cells no matter where they are in your body. Undergoing chemotherapy helps keep cancer from coming back. You'll take chemotherapy by pill or shots, or through an IV.

Your doctor may also recommend that you have radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses precisely aimed, powerful beams of energy to destroy cancer cells. You may need radiation therapy on your whole breast and on nearby lymph nodes.

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