When is ‘Carcinoma’ not Cancer?

When it’s called “Ductal Carcinoma In Situ” – also known as DCIS, Stage 0 or pre-invasive breast cancer, and other names too.

DCIS in perspective

# of DCIS cases compared to Invasive Breast Cancer (IBC)

DCIS is confusing. Some call it an early form of breast cancer while others want ‘carcinoma’ taken out of the name because it is NOT cancer. The debate heated up (again), based on some new studies that the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) explains here.

About 50,040 people will get DCIS this year according to the American Cancer Society but most are treated as if they have breast cancer (known as ‘over-treatment’). To compare, about 234,000 people will get breast cancer. And yes, about 1% of the people will be men.

Who is at risk?

So far, the risk factors for a first DCIS are the same as the risks for breast cancer. For those who have DCIS, the risk factors change:

  • About 1 in 10 of them will get another DCIS within 10 years.
  • About 1 in 10 will get invasive breast cancer within 10 years.
  • This means that about 8 in 10 people diagnosed with DCIS don’t actually have to worry about it again.

So, how do we find out which people should get treated? There are some known clues, like:

  • People who found their DCIS by feel (palpation), and not on a mammogram.
  • People diagnosed before age 35 (very few are in this group).
  • There are fewer African-American women who get DCIS, but they seem to have a higher risk of getting a future event.
  • DCIS lesions that still have abnormal cells close to the outside border (margin).
  • Bigger lesions or more than one in the breast. DCIS that has a higher grade also has more risk.

Researchers are searching for more specific clues. I’ve been working with some of them and (warning: shameless plug alert) a new eBook will be available soon that explains more. Hopefully, they will be able to find those at the highest risk of another DCIS or invasive breast cancer. That may save the other 80% the hassle and pain of treatment.

Update: the DCIS Dilemmas eBook is now available! You can get it at your favorite eBook store (Amazon, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google Books, etc.). Please let me know what you think!

All content © 2015 by Deborah Collyar unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided a link back to this page and proper attribution is given to me as the original author.