Intraductal breast cancer is cancer that invades the breast duct cells. Also known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or intraductal carcinoma, this type of cancer is not found to be as aggressive as other types of cancer. Early detection devices, such as mammograms, are generally able to detect intraductal breast cancer at its earliest stage even when manual breast exams do not sense an irregularity. Overall, intraductal breast cancer is considered to be the earliest detectable type of breast cancer, which makes its prognosis better than that of all other breast cancers.
Intraductal breast cancer originates in the breast’s lobules, which are used for producing milk. Tumors that form in this area tend to remain within that boundary and, therefore, do not typically spread to other parts of the breast or throughout the body, in general. In many women, when intraductal breast cancer is first detected, it is discovered just as cells are beginning to mutate from normal into cancerous forms. Even when cells have mutated, if caught before they breech the walls of the breast duct, this form of breast cancer does not spread elsewhere.
Although too small to detect by hand, intraductal breast cancer is routinely found during a mammography exam. Once a tumor is discovered, however, it must be biopsied to determine whether it is benign, as many are, or whether it is malignant. By further assessing the cells, pathologists are able to determine whether or not it is intraductal breast cancer alone or whether it has broken through the duct’s lining and become a more invasive form of cancer.
Due to the early detection of intraductal breast cancer, it is often treatable by lumpectomy and radiation alone, and mastectomy is rarely prescribed although it is offered as an option. Also, because this is a non-invasive breast cancer, individuals diagnosed with intraductal carcinoma are given time to decide on the best treatment option, as opposed to more invasive forms where an immediate decision must be made to stop the cancer’s spread. Most people diagnosed with this form of cancer are also not faced with the possibility of death upon its discovery, as it is a highly treatable and highly curable cancer type. While cancer of any form is a serious diagnosis, ductal carcinoma in situ is sometimes referred to as stage zero breast cancer based on its low threat level and the successful recovery rate of individuals previously diagnosed with it.