What is Ductal Carcinoma In Situ Breast Cancer?

Find Out How DCIS Breast Cancer is Treated

Woman getting mammogram
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Ductal Carcinoma In Situ Breast Cancer (DCIS) is one of the most common forms of breast cancer. While it is non-invasive and can be treated, if you've had DCIS, you're at an increased risk of developing an invasive form of cancer later on. The number of people who have had DCIS is increasing every day, so it's important to recognize the signs of DCIS and how it is treated.

What is DCIS?

With DCIS, ductal means that the cancer has started within the milk ducts in the breasts.

Carcinoma refers to cancers that start in the tissues or skin. In situ means "in its original place". This form of cancer is very common. There are more than 60,000 new cases of DCIS every year.

Why is In Situ Breast Cancer Considered Less Invasive?

If you have DCIS, you may have heard your doctor say or read online that it's a non-invasive form of cancer. The "In situ" in DCIS is referring to the cancer being limited to one particular area; the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body. 

How Serious is DCIS?

DCIS is not life-threatening, but that doesn't mean it's not serious. If you have had DCIS, you are at an increased risk of developing a more invasive form of breast cancer later on. About one-third of all women affected by DCIS will experience a recurrence of cancer. Most recurrences are diagnosed within five to ten years after DCIS is first noticed. 

DCIS is particularly dangerous because it has almost no symptoms.

Some people may notice a lump or some discharge from the nipples, but most have no signs at all that something is wrong. The vast majority of cases are only found thanks to a mammogram, highlighting the importance of regular visits to the doctor and yearly exams. Finding DCIS early can help the treatment process.


How is DCIS Treated?

Many women opt for a lumpectomy, or a breast-conserving surgery, to treat DCIS. If a lumpectomy is used without being accompanied by radiation therapy, there is a 30% chance of having a recurrence. If that lumpectomy is combined with radiation therapy, the risk drops down to just 15%. 

For some cases, your doctor may recommend a mastectomy, or removal of your breast, in order to eliminate the presence of cancer. Other cases will require ongoing hormonal therapy after the initial treatments. 

Chemotherapy is usually not needed, but each case is unique and your doctor will design a comprehensive treatment plan that aggressively fights cancer in your body. 

What Happens After DCIS Goes Away?

Once you've undergone surgery and/or radiation therapy, your doctor will work with you to create a follow-up plan. If you've undergone a surgery, you'll have a series of appointments to make sure you are healing properly. If you're going to need hormonal treatments, you will likely take them in pill form for up to five years.

Your doctor will probably recommend checkups every six to twelve months as well as a yearly mammogram to make sure cancer hasn't returned. 


"Ductal Carcinoma In Situ". BreastCancer.org, 2015. 

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