Treatment overview for DCIS

You will usually have surgery to remove the cancer – you may also have other treatments to reduce the risk of it coming back.

About treatment for DCIS

The main treatment is surgery to remove the DCIS. Not all DCIS will develop into an invasive cancer. The aim of treatment is to remove it and reduce the risk of it developing into an invasive breast cancer.

Some women may also have other treatments such as radiotherapy and hormonal therapy.


Your surgeon may talk to you about having one of these operations:

Most women have breast-conserving surgery. Breast-conserving surgery aims to keep as much of the breast and its shape as possible.

Sometimes, you are advised to have the whole breast removed (mastectomy). If you have a mastectomy, you will also have a sentinel lymph node biopsy. This is a way of checking a few lymph nodes in the armpit for cancer cells.

Some women also have surgery to make a new breast shape (breast reconstruction) during the operation. Others choose to have this done at a later time.


After breast-conserving surgery, your cancer doctor will usually advise you to have radiotherapy to the rest of the breast. This is to reduce the risk of DCIS coming back and to reduce the risk of an invasive breast cancer developing.

Hormonal therapy

If you have DCIS that is oestrogen-receptor (ER) positive, your doctor may talk to you about having hormonal therapy. Some ER positive women may have hormone therapy before their operation. This shrinks the cancer so that you can have breast conserving surgery instead of a mastectomy.

It is important that the possible benefits are weighed up against the side effects of the hormonal therapy drugs. Your cancer doctor can explain the possible benefits and side effects in your situation.

Doctors are researching whether it is possible for women with low grade DCIS to have less treatment. Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse can give you more information about research trials that may be suitable for you.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    European Society for Medical Oncology. Primary breast cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of oncology 26 (supplement 5): v8–v30. 2015. 

    Morrow M, et al. Chapter 79: malignant tumors of the breast. DeVita, Hellman and Rosenberg’s cancer: principals and practice of oncology (10th edition). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 2014.

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Early and locally advanced breast cancer: diagnosis and management. July 2018.

    Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network. SIGN 134. Treatment of primary breast cancer: a national clinical guideline. September 2013.


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor J Michael Dixon, Professor of Surgery & Consultant Surgeon.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.