Tubular Carcinoma of the Breast

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Tubular carcinoma is a rare type of invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast. It takes its name from its microscopic appearance, in which the cancer cells resemble small tubes. Tubular carcinomas tend to be small, estrogen-receptor positive, HER2/neu negative. In some cases, tubular cancer cells are mixed with ductal or lobular cancer cells, giving a mixed-tumor diagnosis.

Tubular carcinomas account for 2% of all breast cancer diagnoses.

Patients who develop tubular carcinoma are usually 50 years of age or older.

It is also known as tubular breast cancer, TC, tubulolobular – TLC (when mixed with lobular cancer)

Difference From Tubular Breasts

Tubular breasts, or tuberous breasts, are a congenital breast condition in which the breasts don't develop as much glandular tissue as a normal mature breast. Tubular breasts may have large areolas, are very narrow at the chest wall, and grow in a drooping fashion. Plastic surgery can be done to reshape tubular breasts into a more normal shape. Having tubular breasts is not equal to having tubular carcinoma.

Signs and Symptoms

You may not be able to feel a small lump of tubular carcinoma, but it may show up on a routine mammogram. If it is mixed with invasive ductal cancer cells and has formed a more prominent lump, you might be able to feel the ductal lump. When tubular cancer cells are combined with lobular breast cancer (tubulolobar), your symptoms may resemble invasive lobular carcinoma, such as a thickened area.


Tubular carcinomas are often very small, but may show up on a mammogram, as an irregularly shaped mass with a spiky, or starry outline. On a breast ultrasound, a tubular carcinoma can show up as a mass with a fuzzy outline, and may have calcifications near it. The center of a tubular carcinoma will be denser than the outer areas of the mass.

A biopsy will be needed to obtain a tissue sample so that a pathologist can do a microscopic examination, which will give a clear diagnosis.

Tumor Size and Prognosis

Tubular carcinomas are usually small (1 – 2 cm diameter) and do not spread far beyond the original tumor site. It is possible, but unusual, for tubular carcinoma to travel to your lymph nodes -– and unaffected lymph nodes means less chance of metastasis. Your chance of recovery and survival after treatment for a tubular carcinoma is very good.



American Cancer Society. What is Breast Cancer? Invasive (or infiltrating) Ductal Carcinoma. Revised: 09/13/2007.

Japanese Journal of Breast Cancer. Vol. 18; No.5; Page 447-451(2003). Hashimoto Kochika, et al. A Case of Tubular Carcinoma of the Breast Occurring During Hormone Replacement Therapy.

American Journal of Roentgenology. 2000; 174:253-257. Tubular Carcinoma of the Breast - Mammographic and Sonographic Features. Declan G. Sheppard, et al.

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