Purpose of review
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) accounts for approximately 20% of mammographically diagnosed breast cancers. Currently, there is a trend to consider DCIS as a lesion for which treatment deescalation is advocated to avoid overtreatment, that is, radiotherapy in addition to breast-conserving surgery or even surgery at all.
The long-term follow-up updates of the four first-generation randomized trials comparing lumpectomy with and without radiation therapy have confirmed that radiation halves the local failure rates. However, radiotherapy is not associated with a survival benefit just as affirmed by the recently published evaluation of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registries database, including 108 196 women with DCIS. Nevertheless, the risk of dying of breast cancer increases about factor 18 after experience of an invasive local recurrence. That means at least some DCIS have the potential to progress to a life threatening disease. At the same time, none of the recently updated prospective trials that tested the outcome after excision alone in low-risk DCIS achieved a 10-year local failure rate below 10%.
DCIS is not a uniform disease. Its clinical behaviour is heterogeneous, but up to date no citeria are available that allow a precise identification of patients with low or very low progression risk who do not need irradiation. Therefore, excision followed by radiotherapy is still the standard of care in patients undergoing breast conservation. Promising new approaches for risk estimation have to be validated prospectively before their use in daily practice can be recommended.