Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS)

What is Ductal Carcinoma in Situ?

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a type of breast cancer and is the most common noninvasive form. The name essentially means it is a cancer found in the milk ducts of the breasts and it has not spread to any of the surrounding breast tissue. While DCIS breast cancer is not life threatening on its own, it does elevate the risk of the patient experiencing a more dangerous form of invasive breast cancer in the future. The chance of recurrence stands at under 30% and could happen five to ten years after the first case.

The American Cancer Society reports about 60,000 new cases of DCIS every year in the United States. This number accounts for around 20% of new breast cancer diagnoses and has been steadily growing. It may be because people are living longer, which increases the chance of experiencing breast cancer, or that more cases are being spotted earlier due to improved mammogram quality. While it is unclear exactly what causes DCIS, it is known that a genetic mutation occurs that leads to an overgrowth of abnormal cells.

What are the Symptoms of Ductal Carcinoma in Situ?

Patients with DCIS generally do not experience any symptoms, although some may notice a lump in the breast or nipple discharge. The majority of cases are discovered through routine mammograms.

Ductal Carcinoma In Situ Causes

Currently, there is no clear cause of DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) though it is known to occur proceeding genetic mutations in breast duct cell DNA. These genetic mutations make cells appear abnormally, however the cells lack the ability to break free from the breast duct. Researchers are not sure of the specific trigger for this abnormal cell growth, which leads to DCIS. Among the likely factors that may play a part in DCIS are genes passed from parents, a person’s environment, and their lifestyle.

Other factors that can increase the risk of DCIS include:

  • Age
  • A history of benign breast disorder, like atypical hyperplasia
  • Family breast cancer history
  • Pregnancy in your 30s
  • Using a mix of estrogen-progestin hormone replacement therapies longer than five years post-menopause
  • Any Genetic mutations like genes BRCA1 and BRCA2
  • Obesity

How is Ductal Carcinoma in Situ Treated?

The usual treatment for DCIS is a lumpectomy combined with radiation therapy. This involves removing only the mass and using radiation to minimize the chances of the surrounding tissue also becoming abnormal. Sometimes only a lumpectomy is done, while some cases require a full removal of the breast in a procedure called a mastectomy.

Regardless of the treatment used, patients are generally given hormonal therapy after surgery to help manage how much estrogen is produced by the body. Chemotherapy is usually not needed, since DCIS does not spread outside of the milk ducts.

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ Prevention

No precise way of preventing DCIS is clearly known, as research is still underway. However, as of now, they have an understanding of what factors spur this cancer on. Additionally, because DCIS is one of the earliest stages of breast cancer and the root cause of this cancer preventive measures are hard to come by at the movement. Living a healthy life is among the most trusted methods of preventing DCIS, along with other kinds of cancers caused by abnormalities in cells.

In order to ensure good health, good sleep, a proper diet, and regular exercise are essential. Your diet must include fresh fruits and vegetables to reduce the chances of disorder and deficiencies. Sleeping the requisite number of hours is essential to helping the body perform at optimal levels in terms of fighting infections and gathering energy. Doctors believe that exercising regularly and taking part in physical activities helps to keep your body primed to avoid diseases like DCIS until more research is done and targeted prevention is achieved.

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Last Reviewed:
September 20, 2016
Last Updated:
December 15, 2017