Breast Cancer: Ductal Carcinoma in Situ and Invasive Ductal Carcinoma

Written and Researched by Trinity



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Millions of women each year suffer from breast cancer and its deadly effects. Breast cancer occurs when breast tissue cells begin to grow abnormally and uncontrollably in the body. Ductal Carcinoma begins with cells and then spreads to the breast ducts. The ducts are an important part of the breast because they are the tubes that carry breast milk to the nipple and help nurse a newborn child. The two most common breast cancers are Ductal Carcinoma and Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Even though both are forms of the same cancer, one is more invasive and dangerous than the other.



Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS):

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ also known as intraductal carcinoma is the least dangerous breast cancer. It is known as stage 0 breast cancer as it is a non-spreading breast cancer. DCIS can happen when the cells that line the duct convert to cancer cells but do not spread through the walls of the ducts. DCIS is the earliest form of breast cancer and is not considered a medical emergency; however, it is still treated as a cancer case. There are various treatment plans that are possible including surgery and/or radiation, such as the following:

  • Surgery to conserve breast tissue (radiation included)

  • Surgery to remove all breast tissue (no radiation)

When DCIS is seen in mammograms, it appears as small clusters of calcifications that are oddly shaped. The DNA mutations in the breast duct cells cause the cells to look abnormal and malfunction. Sometimes, the cancer itself mutates and becomes invasive. DCIS has a low risk rate for becoming invasive and happens quite rarely. When it does so, the cancer cells latch onto the tissue outside of the duct and metastasize to other parts of the body.



Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC):

Invasive Ductal Carcinoma is similar to DCIS—in the sense that it is the same cancer—but it is much more dangerous as well as very common. In fact, about 80% of all breast cancer cases are IDC. In particular, the lasting effects of IDC are much more fatal than DCIS and sometimes IDC can even affect men in rare cases.


For both IDC and DCIS, the risk factors are the same and include:

  • Increasing age

  • Personal history of benign breast disease (atypical hyperplasia)

  • Family history of breast cancer

  • Having your first baby after the age of 30

  • Having your first period before the age of 12

  • Beginning menopause after the age of 55



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