Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is DCIS a type of cancer?"
What is DCIS? My doctor thinks I may have it. Is this like cancer?
DCIS, or Ductal Carcinoma in Situ. The diagnosis is made based on pathology analysis of a sample of tissue from a breast. What it means is that a pathologist,when looking at tissue samples under a microscope, found malignant cells of the ductal epithelium, but it does not invade through the basement membrane. In simpler terms, this is a pre-cancerous clump of cells that has not developed into a full blown cancer and has not started spreading. You can't usually feel a DCIS lesion on physical examination. If left alone, 50-60% of patients with DCIS develop breast cancer in the same breast and 5-10% may get cancer in the other breast. Because of this, it is usually recommended to take the area in question out. There are two options for dealing with DCIS. One option is a prophylactic mastectomy can be performed. This means a surgeon will take out all of the breast tissue from that breast. The other option is a lumpectomy and radiation. This means only a small part of your breast, the one containing the DCIS, will be taken out with the aim of getting 2-3mm of normal breast (margin) around the DCIS, followed by radiation therapy. Because DCIS, by definition, does not cross the basement membrane, most patients do not need a lymph node biopsy. As a patient, you have the right to decide whether you want this treated, and if so, which option you choose. It is strongly encouraged that you speak to a general surgeon, a breast surgeon or a surgical oncologist specializing in breast surgery regarding your options for treatment.
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