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Ductal Carcinoma (Invasive and In Situ)

How is ductal carcinoma in situ diagnosed? continued...

If your mammogram suggests that you may have ductal carcinoma in situ, your doctor should recommend a biopsy. The purpose of the biopsy is to analyze the cells in the suspicious area for cancer and confirm the diagnosis. Biopsies for DCIS are typically done using needles to remove tissue samples from the breast.

After confirming that you have ductal carcinoma in situ, your doctor may recommend other tests. These tests may include an ultrasound or MRI of the breast to gather more information about your cancer. Based on the results of various tests, your doctor will be able to determine the size of your tumor and how much of your breast is involved in the cancer.

How is ductal carcinoma in situ treated?

No two patients are the same. Your doctor will customize your treatment plan for ductal carcinoma in situ based on your test results and medical history. Among other things, your doctor will consider:

  • Tumor location
  • Tumor size
  • Aggressiveness of the cancer cells
  • Family history of breast cancer

Most women with ductal carcinoma in situ don't have the breast removed with a mastectomy. Instead, they receive breast-conserving treatment.

The most common course of treatment consists of a lumpectomy followed by radiation. A lumpectomy is a surgical procedure in which a surgeon removes the cancer and a small area of normal tissue around it. The risk of lymph node involvement with ductal carcinoma in situ is only 1% to 2%, so the lymph nodes under the arm do not need to be removed, as may be the case with other types of breast cancer. The area of normal tissue is taken to make sure all the cancer cells have been removed.

After lumpectomy, radiation therapy significantly reduces the likelihood that the cancer will come back. Cancer coming back is called recurrence. Radiation can be delivered from an external source to the entire breast. Or it can be given internally to certain areas of the breast.

Some women with an extremely low likelihood of cancer recurrence may be treated for ductal carcinoma in situ with a lumpectomy only. This may be an option for older women with small tumors whose surgery showed large amounts of healthy tissue on all sides of the cancer. You should discuss the risks of forgoing radiation therapy with your doctor before deciding against it.

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