Ductal carcinoma in situ
|Ductal carcinoma in situ|
|Classification and external resources|
Histopathologic image from ductal cell carcinoma in situ (DCIS) of breast. Hematoxylin and eosin stain.
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), also known as intraductal carcinoma, is referred a pre-cancerous or non-invasive cancerous lesion of the breast. A percentage of DCIS lesions progress to become invasive breast cancer. It rarely produces symptoms or breast lumps, and it is usually detected through screening mammography.
In this condition abnormal cells are found in the lining of one or more milk ducts in the breast. In situ means "in place" and refers to the fact that the abnormal cells have not moved out of the mammary duct and into any of the surrounding tissues in the breast (precancerous means that it has not yet become an invasive cancer). In some cases, DCIS may become invasive cancer and spread to other tissues, although it is not currently known how to predict which lesions will become invasive. DCIS encompasses a wide spectrum of diseases ranging from low-grade lesions that are not life-threatening to high-grade (i.e. potentially highly aggressive) lesions.
DCIS has been classified according to architectural pattern (solid, cribriform, papillary, and micropapillary), tumor grade (high, intermediate, and low grade), and the presence or absence of comedo histology. DCIS can be detected on mammograms by examining tiny specks of calcium known as microcalcifications. Since suspicious groups of microcalcifications can appear even in the absence of DCIS, a biopsy may be necessary for diagnosis.
About 20-30% of those who do not receive treatment develop breast cancer. It is the most common type of pre-cancer in women. There is some disagreement as to whether, for statistical purposes, it should be counted as a cancer: some include DCIS when calculating breast cancer statistics while others do not.
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is the name given to groups of "cancerous" epithelial cells that have remained in their normal place (in situ in Latin) within the ducts and lobules of the mammary gland. Clinically, it is considered a premalignant (i.e. potentially malignant) condition. Each lesion contains cells that have already become biologically malignant ("cancerous") but have not yet crossed the basement membrane to invade the surrounding tissue. When multiple lesions (known as "foci" of DCIS) are present in different quadrants of the breast, this is referred to as "multicentric" disease.
For statistical purposes, some count DCIS as a "cancer", whereas others do not. When classified as a cancer, it is referred to as a non-invasive or pre-invasive form. The National Cancer Institute describes it as a "noninvasive condition".
Signs and symptoms
Most of the women who develop DCIS do not experience any symptoms. The first signs and symptoms may appear if the cancer advances. Because of the lack of early symptoms, DCIS is most often detected at screening mammography.
In a few cases, DCIS may cause:
- A lump or thickening in or near the breast or under the arm
- A change in the size or shape of the breast
- Nipple discharge or nipple tenderness; the nipple may also be inverted, or pulled back into the breast
- Ridges or pitting of the breast; the skin may look like the skin of an orange
- A change in the way the skin of the breast, areola, or nipple looks or feels  such as warmth, swelling, redness or scaliness.
The specific causes of DCIS are still unknown. The risk factors for developing this condition are similar to those for invasive breast cancer.
Some women are however more prone than others to developing DCIS. Women considered at higher risks are those who have a family history of breast cancer, those who have had their periods at an early age or who have had a late menopause. Also, women who have never had children or had them late in life are also more likely to get this condition.
Long-term use of estrogen-progestin hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for more than five years after menopause, genetic mutations (BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes), atypical hyperplasia, as well as radiation exposure or exposure to certain chemicals may also contribute in the development of the condition. Nonetheless, the risk of developing noninvasive cancer increases with age and it is higher in women older than 45 years.
Surgical removal, with or without additional radiation or chemotherapy, is the recommended treatment for DCIS. This may be either breast-conserving surgery, sometimes referred to as lumpectomy, or a mastectomy (complete or partial removal of the affected breast). While surgery reduces the risk of subsequent cancer many people never develop cancer even without treatment and there are associated side effects. There is no evidence comparing surgery with watchful waiting and some feel watchful waiting may be a reasonable option in certain cases. If a lumpectomy is used it is often combined with radiation therapy. Tamoxifen may also be used if the cells show estrogen receptor positivity.
Use of radiation therapy after lumpectomy provides equivalent survival rates to mastectomy, although there is a slightly higher risk of recurrent disease in the same breast, in the form of further DCIS or invasive breast cancer. Systematic reviews (including a Cochrane review) indicate that the addition of radiation therapy to lumpectomy reduces recurrence of DCIS or later onset of invasive breast cancer in comparison with breast-conserving surgery alone, without affecting mortality. The Cochrane review did not find any evidence that the radiation therapy had any long-term toxic effects. While the authors caution that longer follow-up will be required before a definitive conclusion can be reached regarding long-term toxicity, they point out that ongoing technical improvements should further restrict radiation exposure in healthy tissues. They do recommend that comprehensive information on potential side effects is given to women who receive this treatment. The addition of radiation therapy to lumpectomy appears to reduce the risk of local recurrence to approximately 12%, of which approximately half will be DCIS and half will be invasive breast cancer; the risk of recurrence is 1% for women undergoing mastectomy.
Mastectomies remain a common recommendation in those with persistent microscopic involvement of margins after local excision or with a diagnosis of DCIS and evidence of suspicious, diffuse microcalcifications. Some institutions that have encountered significant rates of recurrent invasive cancers after mastectomy for DCIS have endorsed routine sentinel node biopsy (SNB). Others reserve SNB for selected patients. Most agree that SNB should be considered with tissue diagnosis of high risk DCIS (grade III with palpable mass or larger size on imaging) as well as in patients undergoing mastectomy after a core or excisional biopsy diagnosis of DCIS.
Chemotherapy is thought to be inefficient in treating this type of noninvasive breast cancer. Unlike with invasive breast cancer, most women with DCIS do not receive chemotherapy because the lesions are usually completely removed by surgery. A possible role of hormonal therapy is currently being researched.
DCIS can often be detected with mammographies but is rarely palpable, so it can not generally be found during manual examination by patients or medical professionals. With the increasing use of screening mammography, noninvasive cancers are more frequently diagnosed and now constitute 15% to 20% of all breast cancers. In 2009, at a time when screening had become an established way of diagnosing early breast cancer, 53,000 women were diagnosed with this condition in the United States alone. In the prescreening era, only 4,900 women were diagnosed with the same condition.
Because DCIS is normally found early and it is treated or managed, it is difficult to say what occurs if left untreated. It appears that nearly 2% of the women who were diagnosed with this condition and treated between 1984 and 1989, died within 10 years.
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