DCIS – What is it?

I’ve probably said DCIS hundreds of times by now, but you may have only heard it once – from your doctor.  You are scared for yourself, a loved one or family member and are online searching right now for information, hope and answers to your questions. I know.  I did the same thing – for 5 straight hours – after I hung up the phone with Dr. Taft, my surgeon who broke the bad news to me.  I hope you’ve come to the right place and will find the answers you are looking for and know that you are among 60,000 women and men who will hear the same words, “You have DCIS,” this year.

The clinical definition of DCIS – or ductal carcinoma in situ from the breast cancer.org website reads:

“Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. Ductal means that the cancer starts inside the milk ducts, carcinoma refers to any cancer that begins in the skin or other tissues (including breast tissue) that cover or line the internal organs, and in situ means ‘in its original place.’ DCIS is called ‘non-invasive’ because it hasn’t spread beyond the milk duct into any normal surrounding breast tissue. DCIS isn’t life-threatening, but having DCIS can increase the risk of developing an invasive breast cancer later on.”

So, it sounds to me like DCIS is a cancer that hasn’t spread, but why then does it need to be removed if it stays in place?  www.breastcancer.org answers my question…

“When you have had DCIS, you are at higher risk for the cancer coming back or for developing a new breast cancer than a person who has never had breast cancer before. Most recurrences happen within the 5 to 10 years after initial diagnosis. The chances of a recurrence are under 30%”

So how many women are diagnosed with DCIS each year?

“According to the American Cancer Society, about 60,000 cases of DCIS are diagnosed in the United States each year, accounting for about 1 out of every 5 new breast cancer cases.”

This leaves me to ask, why are so many people diagnosed each year?  www.breastcancer.org answers…

“There are two main reasons this number is so large and has been increasing over time:

  • People are living much longer lives. As we grow older, our risk of breast cancer increases.
  • More people are getting mammograms, and the quality of the mammograms has improved. With better screening, more cancers are being spotted early.”

More information can be found at their website: http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/types/dcis/

Additionally, Madeline, who commented on my blog, linked to this article you may find helpful on DCIS dcisgw-understanding-ductal-carcinoma-in-situ copy.

PHOTO NOTE:  If you are wondering about the photo – I took it summer ’11 from the deck of our rental cabin overlooking Twin Lakes, CO just outside Leadville.  Straight shot – no photoshopping – I was rehabbing from my first reconstruction surgery and loved the R & R time. P.S.  I’d go back to this cabin in a minute.

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