Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Breast cancer types

There are several different types of breast cancer. To determine an appropriate approach to treating the disease, your doctor will first evaluate the specifics of the breast tumor, including:

  • If the disease has spread beyond the breast
  • The type of tissue where the disease began

Ductal carcinoma in situ

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is characterized by cancerous cells that are confined to the lining of the milk ducts and have not spread through the duct walls into surrounding breast tissue. If DCIS lesions are left untreated, over time cancer cells may break through the duct and spread to nearby tissue, becoming an invasive breast cancer.

DCIS is the most common type of noninvasive breast cancer, with about 60,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year. About one in every five new breast cancer cases is ductal carcinoma in situ.

DCIS is divided into several subtypes, mainly according to the appearance of the tumor. These subtypes include micropapillary, papillary, solid, cribriform and comedo. 

Women with DCIS are typically at higher risk for seeing their cancer return after treatment, although the chance of a recurrence is less than 30 percent. Most recurrences occur within five to 10 years after the initial diagnosis, and may be invasive or noninvasive. DCIS also carries a heightened risk for developing a new breast cancer in the other breast. A recurrence of DCIS will require additional treatment.

  • Ductal carcinoma treatment options: The type of therapy selected may affect the likelihood of recurrence. Treating ductal carcinoma in situ with a lumpectomy (breast-conserving surgery) without radiation therapy carries a 25 – 35 percent chance of recurrence. Adding radiation therapy to the treatment decreases this risk to approximately 15 percent. Currently, the long-term survival rate for women with DCIS is nearly 100 percent.

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The many types of breast cancer

Infographic Types Breast Cancer

Breast cancer isn't just one disease, but many different diseases, all with their own behaviors, molecular compositions and side effects. Understanding the differences between the various subtypes may help demystify a complex disease.