The heterogeneous nature of ductal carcinoma in situ has been emphasised by data for breast-cancer screening that show substantial increases in the detection of early-stage non-invasive breast cancer but no noteworthy change in the incidence of invasive and distant metastatic disease. Indolent non-progressive forms of ductal carcinoma in situ are managed according to similar surgical strategies as high-risk disease, with extent of resection dictated by radiological and pathological estimates of tumour dimensions. Although adjuvant treatments might be withheld for low-risk lesions, surgical treatments incur potential morbidity, especially when mastectomy and breast reconstruction are done for widespread low-grade or intermediate-grade ductal carcinoma in situ. Low rates of deaths from breast cancer coupled with overdiagnosis within screening programmes have prompted a fundamental rethink of approaches to the management of both low-risk and high-risk ductal carcinoma in situ. Changes include active surveillance for low-risk lesions and a watchful waiting policy with intervention when invasive local recurrence after breast-conserving surgery is detected. Prediction of ipsilateral invasive recurrence is likely to be improved by integration of molecular biomarkers with conventional histopathological parameters. Moreover, further genetic interrogation of ductal carcinoma in situ might lead to a reclassification of some low-grade lesions as non-cancerous entities.
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