By Dr. Kathleen Ruddy

It is important for women of all ages to perform regular breast self-examinations and, once they are over the age of 40, to have a yearly mammogram. If breast cancer is diagnosed early, it can be cured. Ductal Carcinoma in Situ or DCIS, is the most common form of breast cancer and it can be found in either your right or left breast, or both. It only becomes invasive in about 10 percent of cases. Regardless, it needs to be treated.

What is Ductal Carcinoma in Situ?

Ductal carcinoma is the name for a cancerous tumor that has developed in the milk ducts of the breast. These are the passages that take milk from the lobes, where it is created, to the nipple. “In situ” simply means “in place.” It is used to describe a cancer that has not appeared to spread to other parts of the breast. It is another way to say that the cancer is non-invasive.

What are the Symptoms of DCIS?

You are unlikely to notice a lump in your breast in the first stages of DCIS. Some women experience pain in their breast or perhaps notice an unusual, and possibly bloody, discharge.

EDITOR’S TIP:

If you are considering a lumpectomy, the size of your breast will matter if you want to have reconstruction. If the breasts are large, then reconstruction is possible. However, if a woman has smaller breasts, reconstruction is not always appropriate. There are, of course, other options.

How is DCIS Diagnosed?

Because DCIS does not usually present an obvious symptom such as a lump, around 80 percent of the cases of it are diagnosed by mammography. It is the earliest stage of breast cancer that can be diagnosed, and it is also known as Stage 0 breast cancer. The mammogram will be followed by a biopsy, and possibly an ultrasound and an MRI.

How is DCIS Treated?

Even though DCIS is the mildest form of breast cancer, it is important that you get it treated. If left untreated, up to 50 percent of women with the disease will go on to develop a more invasive form of breast cancer. Happily, with treatment, the prognosis for those with DCIS is good. Depending on the severity of the condition, DCIS is usually treated by a lumpectomy, followed in turn by radiation. The lymph nodes do not usually need to be removed.

Right or left breast DCIS is not a dangerous form of cancer if treated right away. Thanks to medical advances, this earliest form of breast cancer can be diagnosed early. If you are diagnosed with DCIS, do not panic. Your prognosis is good. Just be sure to get prompt treatment for it.

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