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Cribriform Breast Cancer

Cribriform breast cancer, also known as Cribriform carcinoma, is a non-aggressive subtype of breast cancer that accounts for about 5-6 percent of invasive breast cancers. Sometimes it can be mixed with other types of breast cancer, or it can happen on its own. What differentiates it from other cancers is that its cells look like normal cells, while other tumor cells have distinctive holes that resemble Swiss cheese.

The cells of Cribriform breast cancer are usually slow-growing and low grade, which makes a person’s outlook after treatments generally positive.

Symptoms of Cribriform Breast Cancer

Cribriform breast cancer is usually found during a routine breast exam before any other symptoms start showing. On the other hand, its main symptom is thickened skin on the breast, or a small lump

Diagnosis of Cribriform Breast Cancer

In most women, Cribriform breast cancer is diagnosed during a routine breast screening or mammogram after which you’ll be referred to a breast specialist for further examination. Other tests also ordered to confirm the presence of breast cancer cells, and to check how much of these have affected the breast include:

  1. An ultrasound scan
  2. Mammogram
  3. Core Biopsy where a tissue sample is removed from breast for analysis
  4. Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) whereby a fine needle and syringe are used to take samples of the cancer cells for examination.

Treatment of Cribriform Breast Cancer

Based on the test results of the Cribriform breast cancer, the breast doctor will customize the treatment plan. This treatment plan is dependent on certain criterion including:

  • The aggressiveness of the cancer
  • The grade of the cancer
  • Tumor size and location of the tumor
  • Age and overall health
  • HER2 status
  • Hormone receptor status


The first form of treatment for Cribriform breast cancer is surgery; and there are two types of surgeries that are done. These are:

Breast-conserving surgery (BCS)

Also known as a lumpectomy, the surgeon removes the cancer cells, as well as a minimal amount of healthy breast tissue surrounding the tumor.


This is the surgical removal of the entire breast including the nipple, and it would be recommended if:

  1. The area of the cancer is large
  2. The cancer cells are in multiple areas of the breast
  3. There is a gene mutation which increases the likelihood of breast cancer
  4. There’s a history of breast cancer in the family
  5. The patient cannot stand radiation

Before the surgery, the patient is always given the option of having a breast reconstruction. This can happen immediately after the tumor is removed, or at a later date.

Lymph Node Removal

Although Cribriform breast cancer is less likely to spread to the lymph nodes under the arm, the invasive type sometimes does, and the breast specialists might want to ensure it hasn’t spread there. This is done through a lymph node biopsy, where a small sample of the lymph nodes are removed and tested for cancer cells. If they are found to be affected by cancer, then these lymph nodes are surgically removed – a procedure known as lymph node clearance – radiotherapy treatment might be recommended.

Additional Treatments for Cribriform Breast Cancer

After a lumpectomy or mastectomy, you may need additional treatments for Cribriform breast cancer, known as adjuvant treatments. The goal is to give the best promising outcome. These treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy: Although people affected by Cribriform breast cancer don’t usually undergo chemotherapy since the cancer is usually low grade, sometimes they are offered the option if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. Chemotherapy is an anti-cancer drug therapy that is done before surgery to reduce the size of the tumor with the aim of making it operable. The treatment is also given after surgery to minimize the chances of the cancer spreading or returning.
  • Radiation therapy: If you go through a lumpectomy, you may need radiation therapy to destroy any cancer cells and reduce the chances of it recurring on the same breast. It might be done for the chest wall, if the lymph nodes under the arm are also affected by the cancer.
  • Hormone therapy: This treatment is considered if the cancer cells have receptors that bind to estrogen. Administration of hormone therapy reduces the chance of the cancer returning or progressing further.
  • Targeted therapy: If the breast cancer cells have human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 gene (HER2), treatment drugs to specifically target it may be given.
  • Bisphosphonates: Bisphosphonates are drugs that are given orally or intravenously to either slow down or prevent bone damage. When used for cancer treatment in post-menopausal women, they reduce the risk of the Cribriform breast cancer

Recovery After Cribriform Breast Cancer

After the successful treatment of Cribriform breast cancer, your doctor will keep a close watch on you. Follow-up appointments are required and should be followed as agreed with the breast doctor, where he/she will do tests for signs of recurrence. A mammogram and screening might be required every 6 to 12 months.

Next Steps

At King’s College Hospital London Dubai, our Breast Care Clinic caters to every type of breast cancer and breast conditions. If you are facing any kind of abnormal changes to your breast, regardless how small, get in touch for a consultation with one of our breast doctors. For more information on breast cancer and breast care, book an appointment below.

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