What is Lobular?

Consultant radiologist Dr Soujanya Gadde explains more about lobular breast cancer with BBC News Presenter Jane Hill, who was diagnosed with lobular breast cancer in 2018

What is Lobular?

Lobular breast cancer is when cells in the breast lobules, the part involved in producing milk, start to grow abnormally. This happens in about 15% of all breast cancers, and is the second most common form of breast cancer. If these cells stay in the lobules it is called ‘in situ’. If the cancer grows outside of the tubes, it is called ‘invasive’.

Unlike ductal breast cancer, the most common form of the disease, lobular breast cancer or invasive lobular breast cancer (ILC) grows in a line or as single cells and rarely forms a lump.

Lobular cells under microscope growing in straight lines

Facts & Figures

About 22 people are diagnosed with lobular breast cancer each day in the UK. You may hear lobular referred to as a “rare’ form of breast cancer but it is more common than skin cancer, ovarian, kidney, brain, liver or pancreatic cancer. It makes up about 15% of all breast cancers diagnosed.

Lobular often grows in a single-file pattern through the breast tissue without always forming a lump. This is due to the loss of a protein called E-cadherin that enables cells to clump together into a lump.

By growing in straight lines, or as single cells, it make lobular much harder to see on imaging, especially mammograms.

There are different types of lobular breast cancer and you may hear yours described as pleomorphic, mixed or tubule-lobular, for example. There is no current research that identifies clear methods of treating lobular and it sub-types.

You may be told that you have Lobular hyperplasia or Lobular Carcinoma in situ. These are not cancer but changes in your breast cells that indicate a possible higher risk of you developing breast cancer in the future. It does not mean that you will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Possible treatment options will be discussed with you by your medical team.

Download a Leaflet

Our partner, the European Lobular Breast Cancer Consortium, has produced a leaflet What is Lobular?  that contains essential information about lobular breast cancer that you can share with your medical team, and friends and family.

(Christgen M, et al. Pathol Res Pract. 2016; Berg WA, Gutierrez L, NessAiver MS, et al., Radiology. 2004; Lopez JK, Bassett LW. Radiographics. 2009.)

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Lobular Breast Cancer UK is a registered charity in England and Wales No. 1191402 Registered office: Flat 3 Beech House, 77 Edge Lane, Stretford, Greater Manchester M32 8PA