Treatment Options For Ductal Carcinoma In Situ

When you go in for your routine breast exam or mammogram, the last thing you want is to receive any kind of bad news from your doctor. However, if your physician finds cause for concern, they may eventually determine that you have what is known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). This diagnosis is considered to be stage zero breast cancer, or cancer cells that are isolated to the milk duct in the breast. Many women do not know what to do when they receive such a diagnosis. After all, stage zero breast cancer is the lowest stage of breast cancer, but the fact that it is cancer is still case for concern. Get to know some of the treatment options available to you if you have been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ so that you can figure out a plan of action and treatment going forward.

Watchful Waiting

Some doctors recommend watchful waiting when it comes to DCIS. Because this condition is considered to be non-invasive and isolated to the milk duct in the breast, your physician might think that immediate aggressive treatment is unnecessary and could do harm to healthy tissues in the breast and elsewhere in the body.

Watchful waiting means that you will see your physician regularly for examinations and scans and that you will look for changes in your breast tissues with monthly self-exams. If you opt for watchful waiting, it may be a good idea to consider getting some genetic testing performed.

Genetic testing can look for the presence of BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations, either or which can increase the risk of breast cancer in women to between a 45 percent and 65 percent chance of developing breast cancer before the age of 70. Additionally, the chance of breast cancer recurrence is extremely high with these gene mutations.

Lumpectomy with or without Radiation

A lumpectomy is a surgical treatment for DCIS. It involves removing the cancerous milk duct in hopes that by removing the known cancer cells, it will eradicate all cancer cells in the breast. This surgery alone may be the only treatment a woman needs for DCIS.

Doctors sometimes recommend that you also go through a round or two of radiation therapy with a radiation specialist. Radiation therapy is a non-invasive treatment in which radiation energy waves target the breast tissue in and around the area of the malignant milk duct. This can help to get rid of any remaining cancer cells that could not be detected on scans of the breasts.


For women who are worried about the possibility of their DCIS spreading beyond the milk duct or those who find out that they have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, a mastectomy is a possible treatment option for DCIS as well. This is a surgical procedure in which all of the breast tissue in one or both breasts is removed. This ensures that the breast cancer isolated in the milk duct is removed and cannot recur.

Because the genetic mutation to BRCA1 or BRCA2 makes the spread and/or recurrence of breast cancer likely, many women who discover this mutation opt for the mastectomy surgery. Breasts can be reconstructed at the time of the mastectomy if the woman would like so that their appearance does not change drastically. Women with high anxiety about their diagnosis or who would rather play it safe may ask for such a procedure to be performed as well.

Now that you know a few of the treatment options for your ductal carcinoma in situ, you can be sure that you are doing everything in your power to protect your health going forward and get your cancer treated as effectively as possible.