Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is considered a non-invasive form of breast cancer. That means that in the earliest stage of cancer it is isolated to the breast duct, and hasn’t spread to other breast tissue or beyond the breast. Our bodies constantly are growing and developing new cells; when this process goes wrong, the buildup of extra cells can turn into a mass of tissue called a growth, tumor, or lump. Breast cancer is caused by this over production of cells that occurs in the breast tissue. Many growths in the breast can be benign (not cancer), while some may be malignant (cancer).
Most women with DCIS exhibit no symptoms of the disease, but some may experience a lump in the breast or discharge from a nipple.
When you visit your gynecologist, he/she will often perform a breast examination, however, you should also be checking periodically for lumps or other abnormalities in your breasts. When pregnant or during your period, breast tissue can become “lumpy” because of hormones, so suspected growths found during those times may not be cause for alarm, but still should be checked out by your doctor.
If you suspect you may have something wrong with your breasts, it is important to discuss it with your doctor to assure early detection and treatment. Some questions you may want to ask might be:
- How is cancer diagnosed? Your doctor may order an imaging test, such as a mammogram, in which most cases of DCIS are detected; other tests may include a sonogram, or MRI to get a picture of the breast tissue. New developments in early detection testing may be available as early as next year; a simple blood draw could be taken to look for biomarkers indicating a tumor could present. As needed, the doctor may want to perform a biopsy to draw fluid from a lump, check changed skin, or remove tissue from the breast to check for cancerous cells. There are also hormonal tests that can be performed to verify if certain hormones or protein is present in the abnormal cells indicating possible ways to treat the cancer.
- ]What causes this type of breast cancer? Genetics may play a role in breast cancer development, particularly if you have inherited the gene mutation BRCA1 or BRCA2. Other factors include radiation exposure and exposure to certain chemicals can cause the gene mutation. Hormone exposure (ex., starting your period early in life, entering menopause late in life, never having children, or hormone replacement therapy after menopause) can increase your risk. It is also held by many researchers that what you eat and drink can play a role (for example, too much red meat, or too much alcohol).
- So, I’ve been diagnosed. Now what? Depending on the severity of your case, your doctor may perform breast-conserving surgery to remove a lump or tumor; you may also receive radiation or tamoxifen. You will likely be referred to a specialist such as an oncologist. In this early stage, and depending on your case, you may want to opt for mastectomy rather than have to undergo radiation. It is important to discuss all concerns and options with your doctor.
- What is the long term risk? With DCIS, the biggest long term risk is recurrence. Many women are treated effectively for DCIS.
- Should I get a second opinion? It is your choice, but you should be your own best advocate. If you want a second opinion, ask for one! Many doctors welcome a second opinion contrary to what you might think. Many insurance companies may cover additional testing performed by a different doctor if your doctor requests it. Some insurance companies even require a second opinion. The short delay taken in getting all the information to allow you to feel more confident and in control of your health in most cases will not be detrimental to your treatment.
- 6What if the doctor suggests I have a mastectomy? In some cases, a mastectomy may be an option for you, at that time, you may opt for either breast reconstruction or prosthesis (breast form worn inside your bra). Discuss choices with your doctor to find the solution that’s right for you.
- Is there a cure for breast cancer? While there is no definitive cure for breast cancer, ongoing research has brought great strides in treatment and detection of breast cancer. Following treatment, you can work to lower your risk factors and monitor your health closely to ensure recurrence doesn’t happen.
- Is there any research I can do on my own and what sources would you recommend? A cancer diagnosis can be scary, frustrating, and depressing. Your doctors can suggest their preferred reputable websites and support groups for obtaining more information and helping you cope with breast cancer.
This information is not meant to be a replacement for talking with your doctor; it is meant to be a catalyst. Talk with your team of doctors to get the full picture for your particular case.
www.cancer.org Breast Cancer
www.mayoclinic.com Breast Cancer
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Christine Jeffries is a writer/editor for work and at heart, and lives in a home of testosterone with her husband and two sons. Christine is interested in women’s health and promoting strong women.