Ductal Carcinoma In Situ

Breast Cancer, TEM
Steve Gschmeissner/Science Photo Library/Getty Images


DCIS, Intraductal carcinoma

Medical Specialties:

Internal medicine, Obstetrics/gynecology, Oncology

Clinical Definition:

Ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, is non-invasive or pre-invasive breast cancer. Cells lining the ducts have developed the appearance of cancerous cells but have not invaded the ductal walls to surrounding breast tissues. The cure rate is high.

In Our Own Words:

Ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, is early stage breast cancer.

It is considered non-invasive or pre-invasive, stage 0. The cells that line the breast's milk ducts have changed and look like cancer cells have not spread into the breast around them. Most DCIS cases are detected using breast imaging and biopsy, not symptoms. Treatment options include lumpectomy plus radiation or mastectomy.

More Information About DCIS

Although carcinoma in situ isn't a malignant lesion per se, if left untreated, it does place you at higher risk for breast cancer, specifically development of invasive ductal carcinoma. More specifically, DCIS increases the risk of breast cancer by about 10 times compared with women without DCIS. It's important to note that DCIS increases the risk of cancer in the same breast and at the same location in which it's found, suggesting that DCIS is a true anatomical predecessor of cancer.

On mammogram, DCIS isn't detected as a density but can be detected as calcifications.

These calcifications can either be linear, clustered or branching.

On histological (cellular) examination, DCIS appears as abnormal cell proliferation or growth in the ducts. These growths appear as collections of cells with punched-out lumens or spaces. Unlike other types of hyperplasia (think cancer), DCIS cells tend to respect their boundaries, and they don't overlap.

In fact, DCIS is sometimes hard to distinguish from benign tumors of the breast because it doesn't exhibit typical pathologic changes associated with breast cancer like pleomorphism, mitoses, or atypia. Lesions indicative of high-grade DCIS have an area of central necrosis or cell death. These areas of cell death occur because these growing premalignant cells exhaust their available blood supply

With Paget's disease, a rare type of breast cancer affecting the nipple, DCIS is always present. In Paget's disease, the skin of the nipple has an erythematous or reddened appearance with scaling.

It's estimated that DCIS is found in about 7 percent of all breast biopsies done on women. Although women are mostly affected by this disease, it affects men, too. In fact, about 5 percent of men with breast cancer have DCIS.

DCIS is usually treated using lumpectomy and radiation therapy thus preserving the breast. However, depending on the severity of the disease, mastectomy may be performed.


The Cleveland Clinic. "Breast Cancer: An Overview." Breast Cancer. September 2013. Accessed November 2013.

American Cancer Society. "Types of breast cancers." Breast Cancer. October 2013. Accessed November 2013.

American Cancer Society. "Treatment of non-invasive (stage 0) breast cancer." Breast Cancer. October 2013. Accessed November 2013.

Continue Reading