Ductal carcinoma in situ, complexities and challenges

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004 Jun 16;96(12):906-20. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djh164.


The incidence of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a noninvasive form of breast cancer, has increased markedly in recent decades, and DCIS now accounts for approximately 20% of breast cancers diagnosed by mammography. Laboratory and patient data suggest that DCIS is a precursor lesion for invasive cancer. The appropriate classification of DCIS has provoked much debate; a number of classification systems have been developed, but there is a lack of uniformity in the diagnosis and prognostication of this disease. Further investigation of molecular markers should improve the classification of DCIS and our understanding of its relationship to invasive disease. Controversy also exists with regard to the optimal management of DCIS patients. In the past, mastectomy was the primary treatment for patients with DCIS, but as with invasive cancer, breast-conserving surgery has become the standard approach. Three randomized trials have reported a statistically significant decrease in the risk of recurrence with radiation therapy in combination with lumpectomy compared with lumpectomy alone, but there was no survival advantage with the addition of radiotherapy. Two randomized trials have suggested an additional benefit, in terms of recurrence, with the addition of adjuvant tamoxifen therapy, although in one trial the benefit was not statistically significant. Current data suggest that tamoxifen use should be restricted to patients with estrogen receptor-positive DCIS. Neither trial demonstrated a survival benefit with adjuvant tamoxifen. Ongoing and recently completed studies should provide information on outcomes in patients treated with lumpectomy alone and on the effectiveness of aromatase inhibitors as an alternative to tamoxifen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / administration & dosage
  • Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / surgery
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / therapy*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Estrogen Receptor Modulators / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mammography
  • Mastectomy, Segmental*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / prevention & control
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Receptors, Estrogen / analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • SEER Program
  • Tamoxifen / administration & dosage


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Estrogen Receptor Modulators
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Tamoxifen