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Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center / Centers & Clinics

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Tubular Breast Cancer

Tubular Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Tubular breast cancer is a type of invasive ductal breast cancer that accounts for less than 2% of all breast cancers.  Like other types of invasive ductal cancer, tubular breast cancer begins in the milk duct of the breast before spreading to the tissues around the duct.  When the cells of a tubular breast tumor are examined under a microscope, they look like tubes, which gives this cancer its name.

Tubular breast cancer cells tend to behave less aggressively than more typical kinds of invasive ductal cancers. The tumors are usually small and low grade, meaning that they are not dividing very quickly, and look more like normal cells.  Often, tubular invasive ductal cancer is accompanied by areas of DCIS, or ductal carcinoma in situ; these are cells that have begun to divide abnormally, but have not yet spread outside the duct.

Tubular breast cancers are usually positive for the estrogen and/or progesterone receptors (ER/PR+) and negative for the HER2 receptor (HER2-).  Tubular breast cancer is less likely to involve the lymph nodes, is more responsive to treatment, and may have a better prognosis than more common types of invasive ductal cancer.

Tubular Breast Cancer Treatment

Local therapy is aimed at preventing the cancer from coming back in the breast. Local therapy includes surgery (lumpectomy or mastectomy), and may include radiation. 

Systemic therapy is used to prevent the disease from coming back or spreading to another part of the body.  Generally, this may include endocrine (hormone) therapy, chemotherapy, and therapy that targets the HER2 protein. In most cases of tubular breast cancer, chemotherapy and targeted therapy are not recommended.

Your treatment plan will be based on the features of the tumor (type of cells, tumor grade, hormone receptor status, and HER2 status) and the stage of the disease (tumor size and node status). Your oncology team will recommend a treatment plan based on what is known about mucinous breast cancer in general and tailored to your specific disease.

We know that it can be stressful to receive a diagnosis of breast cancer, and learning that you have a rare form of the disease can add to your anxiety.  We hope it will be reassuring to know that our team at the Center for Rare Breast Tumors is dedicated to latest research and treatment of tubular breast cancer, and is here to support patients and their families through diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.