> Table of Contents > Ductal Carcinoma in Situ
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ
Bradley M. Turner, MD, MPH, MHA
David G. Hicks, MD
image BASICS
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a heterogeneous group of lesions that have in common the presence of a clonal proliferation of neoplastic epithelial cells confined to ducts and lobules.
  • Considered a premalignant lesion—the neoplastic cells are not invasive (pure DCIS).
  • Classified as low, intermediate, or high-grade
  • Mortality from DCIS with subsequent progression to invasive breast carcinoma (IBC) is low, regardless of histologic type or type of treatment.
  • Estimated 58,168 new diagnoses of DCIS in 2014.
  • DCIS accounts for approximately 80-85% of in situ breast carcinomas (lobular carcinoma in situ [LCIS] accounts for approximately 15-20%).
  • Stable incidence in women ≥50 years of age over the last several years.
  • Increasing incidence in women <50 years of age over the last several years.
  • Represents ˜26% of all new IBC—an estimated 60,290 new cases in 2015.
  • Incidence rate of DCIS is comparable among women of different ethnicities.
  • A non-obligate precursor to IBC
  • Presumed to be the final step prior to invasive breast cancer, part of a poorly understood spectrum of polyclonal and clonal epithelial proliferative lesions.
  • Either low- or high-grade DCIS has the potential for subsequent invasion into the surrounding stroma; however, the changes necessary for transition to IBC are poorly understood.
  • Molecular evidence suggests that low- and high-grade DCIS are genetically distinct lesions, with high-grade DCIS associated with more aggressive disease.
  • Low-grade DCIS typically shows diffuse and strong expression of estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR), without HER2 protein overexpression or amplification.
  • High-grade DCIS not consistently ER+ or PR+; frequent HER2 protein overexpression and amplification; commonly associated with p53 gene mutations.
  • HER2 overexpression is even more frequent in high-grade DCIS compared to IBC.
  • BRCA1 and BRCA2 associations observed
  • If patients are high risk, consider genetic counseling after diagnosis of DCIS.
  • Similar to IBC, although not as strongly associated
  • Female gender, older age, nulliparity, late age at first birth, late age at menopause, family history of a first-degree relative with breast cancer, prior breast biopsies, long-term use of postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy, elevated body mass index in postmenopausal women not taking hormone replacement, high mammographic breast density
  • Association with smoking, lactation, early menarche, increased alcohol consumption, and oral contraceptive use are less clear.
  • Screening may result in overdiagnosis with little or no reduction in the incidence of advanced cancers.
  • General screening guidelines have been suggested for asymptomatic women with an average risk of breast carcinoma.
  • Women with increased risk should have more aggressive screening (risk assessment tool available at http://www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool/Default.aspx).
  • General screening guidelines—U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)
    • Biennial mammography for women aged 50 to 74 years.
    • Avoid routine screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years of age. The decision to start biennial mammographic screening before age 50 years should be individualized based on the patient's values regarding specific benefits or harms.
    • Discourage teaching of breast self-exam (BSE).
    • Insufficient evidence to assess the value of clinical breast exam (CBE) in women after age 40 years. If this service is offered, the patient should understand this uncertainty.
    • Insufficient evidence to assess the benefit or harm of digital mammography or MRI over film mammography. If this service is offered, the patient should understand this uncertainty.
  • General screening guidelines—National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN)
    • NCCN recommends that women should be familiar with their breast, promptly report changes to their health care provider, and that periodic, consistent BSE may facilitate breast self-awareness.
    • Ages 25 to 39 years: breast awareness, CBE every 1 to 3 years
    • Age 40 years and older: breast awareness, annual CBE, annual screening mammography
  • Clinicians should use judgment when applying screening guidelines.
  • Mammography screening should be individualized.
  • If no intervention would occur based on screening findings, patient should not undergo screening.
  • Risk reduction
    • Assess for familial/genetic and other elements that contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer.
    • Lifestyle modifications: Limit alcohol intake to <1 drink/day, exercise, maintain healthy diet, and weight control.
    • Risk reduction surgery supported for carefully selected women at high risk of breast cancer who desire this intervention.
    • Risk reduction agents (i.e., tamoxifen) are recommended in certain high-risk women ≥35 years of age.
  • CBE with inspection of breasts with patient in upright and supine position, evaluating for asymmetry, spontaneous discharge, skin changes (peau d'orange, erythema, scaling), nipple retraction/excoriation (Paget disease).
  • Palpation of all breast quadrants with patient in upright and supine position, including lymph node examination (axillary, supraclavicular, and internal mammary nodes).
  • Positive clinical findings: Refer for consideration of diagnostic imaging and/or surgical evaluation, unless <30 years of age with a low clinical suspicion (observe 1 to 2 menstrual cycles; if positive clinical findings persist, refer for imaging) (3)[A].
Usual ductal hyperplasia, flat epithelial atypia, atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH), LCIS, microinvasive carcinoma (1)[A]
Initial Tests (lab, imaging)
  • Mammography Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS) developed by the American College of Radiology is used for uniform reporting of mammography results.
  • BI-RADS interpretation: Categories (0 to 6) 0: incomplete and needs additional imaging; 1: negative; 2: benign finding; 3: probably benign finding; 4: suspicious abnormality; 5: highly suggestive of malignancy; 6: known biopsy-proven malignancy
  • Similar BI-RADS interpretations for diagnostic ultrasound (US).
  • Screening BI-RADS category 0: diagnostic workup with consideration for diagnostic imaging
  • Screening BI-RADS categories 1 and 2: screening recommendations.
  • Screening BI-RADS category 3: diagnostic imaging at 6 months, then every 6 to 12 months for 2 to 3 years; consider biopsy if patient anxious or follow-up uncertain.
  • Screening BI-RADS categories 4 and 5: diagnostic imaging with follow-up
  • Screening BI-RADS category 6: technically not a “screening” category other than to assess a known cancer that might need additional evaluation. NCCN guidelines for breast cancer should be followed.
  • DCIS is commonly seen on imaging as clustered microcalcifications (2)[A].
  • Diagnostic imaging will result in consideration for tissue biopsy.
Follow-Up Tests & Special Considerations
  • US is not recommended for screening (3)[A].
  • The sensitivity of breast MRI screening is higher than mammography but has lower specificity resulting in a greater number of false positives (2,3)[A].
  • Screening with MRI is only recommended in certain women: BRCA mutation, first-degree relative of BRCA carrier, ≥20% lifetime risk of breast cancer, radiation to chest between the ages of 10 and 30 years, presence of Li-Fraumeni, Cowden, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome in patient or first-degree relative (3)[A].
  • Screening with MRI is not recommended in women with <15% lifetime risk of breast cancer.
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  • MRI can also complement mammography in the diagnostic setting, particularly in patients with skin changes (3)[A].
  • Although MRI and US are complementary diagnostic methods to mammography, US is less sensitive in detecting most microcalcifications and MRI does not typically detect microcalcifications at all (2,3)[A].
  • Pathology
    • Tissue is necessary for diagnosis: typically core needle (CN) or vacuum-assisted (VA) biopsy (mammographic/stereotactic, US, or MRI guided). Open surgical biopsy can be performed in patients not amenable to CN or VA biopsy.
    • Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) is not adequate for specific diagnosis of DCIS; however, it can suggest the presence of neoplastic cells.
    • Histologic classification
      • Classification is subjective; however, traditionally classified as either low, intermediate, or high-grade based on architectural patterns (comedo, solid, cribiform, clinging, papillary, and micropapillary), nuclear grade (I, II, or III), and the absence or presence of necrosis (1,2).
      • Ductal intraepithelial neoplasia (DIN) is an alternative histologic classification incoporating size as a discriminating factor (2,4)[C].
      • Grade is more important for prognosis, risk for progression, and local recurrence.
      • Comedo-type necrosis (necrosis filling central portion of involved duct), is typically seen in high-grade DCIS, with varying degrees of necrosis in other types of DCIS.
    • Determination of ER and PR status (1)[A].
    • Studies show unclear or weak evidence of HER2 status as a prognostic indicator in DCIS (5)[A].
  • Surgery is the primary treatment option. Options for surgery are based on risk of recurrence, anatomic location, extent of disease, and the ability to achieve “negative” margins (5)[A].
  • Positive margins are considered “ink on tumor” (6)[A].
  • Negative margins controversial with DCIS (5)[C]
  • Margins <1 mm considered inadequate (1,5)[A]
  • Totality of evidence may not support distinguishing between margins of “no ink on tumor” and margins of <1 mm (6)[C].
  • Margins <1 mm at the breast fibroglandular boundary (chest wall or skin) do not mandate surgical excision but may be an indication for higher boost dose radiation in patients opting for breast conservation (5)[A].
  • Surgical options include the following:
    • Breast conservation (lumpectomy) without lymph node procedure, with or without whole breast radiation therapy (5)[A]
    • A sentinel lymph node biopsy should strongly be considered if the lumpectomy is in an anatomic location compromising the performance of a future sentinel lymph node procedure (5)[C].
    • Radiation decreases recurrence rates by about 50% (2,7,8)[A].
    • ˜50% of recurrences are pure DCIS; ˜50% are IBC (1,5)[A].
    • Recurrence generally requires mastectomy with consideration for systemic treatment (2)[C].
    • Patients not amenable to margin-free lumpectomy should have total mastectomy (5)[C].
    • Mastectomy with or without sentinel node biopsy ± breast reconstruction (5)[A]
    • Mastectomy provides maximum local control.
    • Rates of recurrence for DCIS and IBC are similar to lumpectomy.
    • Recurrence should be treated with wide local excision, chest wall radiation, and consideration for systemic treatment (5)[A].
    • Long-term cause-specific survival seems to be equivalent to lumpectomy with whole breast radiation (5)[A].
  • Secondary chemoprevention following breast-conserving surgery for ER + DCIS
    • Tamoxifen for 5 years (5)[A]
    • Considered in lumpectomy patients with or without whole breast radiation (5)[A]
    • Benefit of tamoxifen and trastuzumab in patients with ER-negative/HER2-positive disease is unclear (1,9,10)[C].
  • History and physical exam every 6 months for first 5 years, then annually
  • Mammography 6 to 12 months after whole breast radiation, then every 12 months
  • If treated with tamoxifen, monitor per NCCN guidelines for breast cancer risk reduction (5,10).
  • Good prognosis: 10-year breast cancer-specific survival rates of >95%; overall mortality after diagnosis of treated pure DCIS generally >98%
  • Risk of local recurrence after mastectomy generally reported as 1-2% (higher in some studies).
  • Higher risk of local recurrences after breast-conserving therapy in younger age (particularly before age 40 years), larger tumor size, high nuclear grade, comedo-type necrosis, and close/positive margin status (related to DCIS volume)
  • ER+ tumors are associated with lower risk for recurrence.
  • The Oncotype Dx DCIS score, a multigene assay including seven DCIS related genes, offers hope for quantifying the risk of local recurrence of DCIS or the development of IBC in certain patient populations (tumors ≤2.5 cm, negative margins) (11,12)[B].
1. Siziopikou KP. Ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast: current concepts and future directions. Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2013;137(4):462-466.
2. Lee RJ, Vallow LA, McLaughlin SA, et al. Ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast. Int J Surg Oncol. 2012;2012:123549.
3. NCCN clinical practice guidelines in oncology: breast cancer screening and diagnosis (Version 1.2014) 2014. National Comprehensive Cancer Network Web site. http://www.nccn.org. Accessed June 3, 2015.
4. Tavassoli FA. Breast pathology: rationale for adopting the ductal intraepithelial neoplasia (DIN) classification. Nat Clin Pract Oncol. 2005;2(3):116-117.
5. NCCN clinical practice guidelines in oncology: breast cancer (Version 2.2015) 2015. National Comprehensive Cancer Network Web site. http://www.nccn.org. Accessed June 3, 2015.
6. Moran MS, Schnitt SJ, Giuliano AE, et al. Society of Surgical Oncology-American Society for Radiation Oncology concensus guideline on margins for breast-conserving surgery with whole-breast irradiation in stages I and II invasive breast cancer. Ann Surg Oncol. 2014;21(3):704-716.
7. Donker M, Litiére S, Werutsky G, et al. Breast-conserving treatment with or without radiotherapy in ductal carcinoma in situ: 15-year recurrence rates and outcome after a recurrence, from the EORTC 10853 randomized phase III trial. J Clin Oncol. 2013;31(32):4054-4059.
8. Goodwin A, Parker S, Ghersi D, et al. Postoperative radiotherapy for ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;(11):CD000563.
9. Carraro DM, Elias EV, Andrade VP. Ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast: morphological and molecular features implicated in progression [published ahead of print November 21, 2013]. Biosci Rep.
10. NCCN clinical practice guidelines in oncology: breast cancer (Version 1.2015) 2015. National Comprehensive Cancer Network Web site. http://www.nccn.org. Accessed June 3, 2015.
11. Solin LJ, Gray R, Baehner FL, et al. A multigene expression assay to predict local recurrence risk for ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013;105(10):701-710.
12. Alvarado M, Carter DL, Guenther JM, et al. The impact of genomic testing on the recommendation for radiation therapy in patients with ductal carcinoma in situ: a prospective clinical utility assessment of the 12-gene DCIS score result. J Surg Oncol. 2015;111(8):935-940.
See Also
Breast Cancer
  • D05.10 Intraductal carcinoma in situ of unspecified breast
  • D05.11 Intraductal carcinoma in situ of right breast
  • D05.12 Intraductal carcinoma in situ of left breast
Clinical Pearls
  • DCIS is a heterogeneous group of noninvasive neoplastic lesions arising from the breast ductal epithelial cells.
  • The incidence of DCIS has continued to increase in women <50 years of age, with a more stable incidence in women ≥50 years of age.
  • The goal of DCIS treatment is to prevent recurrence and progression to IBC.
  • The Oncotype DX DCIS score may be useful in identifying patients at higher risk for recurrence or progession to IBC.
  • Current standard of care is breast-conserving therapy with consideration for postoperative whole breast radiation therapy and/or postsurgical tamoxifen therapy, unless otherwise contraindicated.
  • With appropriate therapy, the overall prognosis of pure DCIS is good.