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Day 19: Meet Infiltrating (or Invasive) Lobular Carcinoma (ILC)

Today’s post is more informational. This is the shortest write-up I have found ILC. As I think about the pros and cons of unilateral vs. bilateral, there is a lot of information even in this short article that make me lean toward bilateral. Especially the part where a mammogram won’t always catch it. This is an interesting process as you think about “removing” a part of your body. Especially when you are thinking about possibly removing part of you by choice… which we really won’t know until MRI results come back.

I was talking with an amazing friend last night and finally just shrugged my shoulders and said, “Me over-thinking, ugh… this is just vanity.” My friend says, gently, “Are you sure you aren’t confusing vanity with identity.” WOW. You need friends like that. It was a hard thing to ask and they were very aware of the impact of the question. It is identity. I do need to recognize that. Now… for the informational part:

ILC starts in the milk-producing glands (lobules). Like IDC (ductal), it can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. About 1 in 10 invasive breast cancers is an ILC.

Signs and Symptoms of ILC:

ILC does not always feel like a breast lump. ILC cells may leave your lobes through one opening, staying together in a line. They can proceed to infiltrate fatty tissue, creating a web-like mass. This web of cancer cells may feel like a thickened area of breast tissue, and at first may not cause concern or pain. Unfortunately, if left undetected, ILC can develop into a mass that is about 3/4 inch (2 centimeters) to about 2 inches (5 centimeters) or bigger in size, before causing more noticeable symptoms.

When to Seek Medical Help:

If you have any of these symptoms, get them checked out by a health professional right away:

  • A thickened area within your breast

  • An area that feels “full” or swells (not due to lactation or hormonal cycle)

  • Breast skin changes such as dimpling, thickening, or different texture

  • Nipple drawing in (retracting)

Because ILC can easily hide within breast tissue, a mammogram won’t always catch it, particularly in the earliest stages. If it does show up on a mammogram, it will be unclear as to its actual nature. Your doctor may send you for a breast ultrasound, which is better at detecting ILC than a mammogram. To get the best overall image of the cancer, you may need a breast MRI, so your surgeon will be able to see the size and location of the mass. Finally, to get a clear diagnosis of ILC, a breast biopsy must be done, so that a sample of the tissue can be examined by a pathologist.

Stages of ILC:

ILC can be diagnosed from stages 1 through 4. It is more likely than IDC to occur in both breasts -– about 20% of patients diagnosed with ILC will have bilateral breast cancer. A breast MRI will help reveal this, and treatment can be tailored to combat both cancerous masses at once.

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