"Breast Cancer" is a non-specific term that is used to describe a whole family of cancers that arise from cells in the breast. Doctors and patients alike tend to group all of the different types of breast tumors under this catch-all term, but several types of tumors that grow in breast tissue are unique in how they grow, how they spread and how they are treated.
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), also known as intraductal carcinoma, is one of these very special forms of breast cancer. DCIS is one of the most highly curable of the breast cancers, but the management of this variant of breast tumor is often quite different than the treatment and management of the more typical invasive breast cancers. Women diagnosed with this type of early breast cancer find the language of this disease to be very confusing. The treatment recommendations for managing ductal carcinoma in situ are different than the treatment recommendations for other forms of breast cancer. Without a good understanding of what makes DCIS tumors so different, it can be very difficult to understand the treatment recommendation made by your doctors.
This year in the United States, approximately 185,000 people will be diagnosed with "breast cancer". Many of these new cases will be diagnosed in fairly early stages because the diagnosis was made by mammography. These x-ray tests are often able to find breast cancers before the cancer is able to be felt on breast examination. Of the many breast cancers diagnosed each year by mammography, 20 - 30 % of these tumors will be this very special form of cancer known as carcinoma in situ. Very often carcinoma in situ of the breast can be seen as small clusters of abnormal small calcium deposits (called microcalcifications) on a mammogram film. These microcalcifications may be seen on mammography years before a true lump will be felt on breast exam. As the usage of mammography for screening for breast cancer increases we expect to see more and more cases of ductal carcinoma in situ being diagnosed.
This document will describe what ductal carcinoma in situ is and will compare it to the more common invasive breast cancer . We will also discuss how each of these two forms of breast cancer grow, and how they differ in this respect. We will discuss the different types of ductal carcinoma in situ, and what the different types mean to the patient with that diagnosis. We will finally discuss management options for patients with the diagnosis of pure ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast , and explain why the treatment may vary from the treatment approaches used for other forms of breast cancer.