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Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS)  

Breast cancer is a very serious and deadly disease.  It has many types and it’s important to understand them further to better fight it.  We will discuss in more detail one type which is called ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS. 

Ductal carcinoma in situ is a common type of breast cancer.  It begins inside of the milk ducts and is called in situ because it remains localized in that area.  DCIS is referred to as non-invasive because it has not spread into any of the surrounding tissue.  It is also thankfully not life threatening but it has to watched carefully since it has the potential to develop into invasive breast cancer at a later time. 

If a person develops DCIS, there is higher risk for the cancer to return or for developing new breast cancer than for people who have never had breast cancer before.  Most of these happen within five to ten years of the original diagnosis. 

There are about 60,000 new cases of DCIS which are diagnosed in the US every year.  This accounts for approximately one out of five new breast cancer cases.  This is noteworthy because DCIS generally shows no obvious symptoms.  It is primarily identified through regular mammograms. 

It should also be noted that the number of cases has been increasing and is fairly high.  A couple of factors are affecting this.  First of all people are living longer.  The risk of breast cancer increases as people age.  And more people are getting regular mammograms.  And the quality and sensitivity of these mammograms have been improving as well.  So more cases can be detected which might otherwise be missed or ignored. 

In addition to better mammograms, other tests may be included as well.  For example a biopsy of the suspected tissue may be performed.  This can be a fine needle aspiration biopsy in which a very small hollow needle is inserted into the breast.  Sample cells are removed through the tube and examined for evidence of cancer. 

A core needle biopsy uses a larger needle.  In order to do this test, small incisions must first be placed in the breast where samples need to be taken. 

If DCIS is identified then surgery is usually recommended in order to make certain that all the cancer is removed.  In most cases a lumpectomy is performed which removes a section of the breast tissue.  However if a larger area is involved, a mastectomy may be necessary. 

Since the cancer is localized and non-invasive there is typically no need for chemotherapy or radiation therapy.  As long as the surgery removes all of the affected cancer cells within the breast, the prognosis is usually excellent. 

However a fair number of people who receive a lumpectomy do get radiation treatment as an extra margin of safety.  This helps to ensure that no remaining cancer cells are present to spark another occurrence of the disease later on.  This is especially true for younger women who first develop the disease. 

If one has to develop breast cancer this is the best type of have since it is easily treatable and has excellent long term prognosis.  But as with any other kind of cancer, early detection and treatment is essential is achieving the best results.  And regular follow up care to check for any return of the disease is very important.