Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)

Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) is not a cancer. It means there are changes to the cells lining the lobes that make milk in the breast. Although women with LCIS have a higher risk of developing breast cancer later in life, most do not.

LCIS does not cause any symptoms and does not show up on a mammogram (breast x-ray). This means that LCIS is usually only found during tests or treatment for other breast conditions.

You don’t need to have treatment if you have LCIS. But routine monitoring or screening is very important. Finding breast cancer early can make it much easier to treat. Doctors usually recommend that women with LCIS have:

  • breast examinations every 6 to 12 months at the breast clinic
  • mammograms every 1 to 2 years.

It’s normal to feel worried about developing breast cancer after being told you have LCIS. But it’s important to remember that most women with LCIS will never develop cancer. You can speak to your doctor or nurse about any concerns you may have.

What is lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)?

The breast contains lobes where milk is made. Lobular carcinoma in situ is a condition where there are cell changes in the lining of these lobes.

Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS, also called lobular neoplasia) is not a cancer. It is a condition where there are changes in the cells lining the lobes (see diagram below) where milk is made in the breast.

These changes indicate that a woman has a higher risk of developing breast cancer later in life. But even so, most women with LCIS never develop breast cancer. A woman’s risk of developing cancer is similar in both breasts, no matter which breast LCIS is found in. Some women have LCIS in both breasts.

LCIS is more common in women who have not yet reached the menopause.

Breast side view
Breast side view

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How LCIS is diagnosed

LCIS doesn't show up on a mammogram (breast x-ray) and has no symptoms. It's usually discovered by chance when a sample of breast tissue is taken (biopsy) or if you have a breast lump removed for another reason.

If you have LCIS diagnosed after a needle or vacuum-assisted biopsy (when the doctor uses a needle to take cells or tissue), you may need some more tissue removed. This is a small operation called an excision biopsy. It’s usually done to make sure there are no cancer cells in the area.

The surgeon will remove the tissue under a general or local anaesthetic. You can usually have this done as day surgery. The tissue is then examined under a microscope.

How LCIS is managed

If you have LCIS you won’t need any treatment. Most women with LCIS don't develop breast cancer, so never need treatment. You will have regular monitoring to make sure that if a cancer does develop, it will be picked up early.

Treatment for early breast cancer is usually very successful. Your doctor and breast care nurse will explain how you will be followed up depending on your situation.

There is a rare type of LCIS called pleomorphic LCIS. It is usually treated in a similar way to ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Your doctors will tell you more if you are diagnosed with this type of LCIS.

Monitoring or screening

Doctors usually recommend women with LCIS have:

  • breast examinations every 6–12 months at the breast clinic
  • mammograms every 1–2 years.

Although you’ll have regular checks, you should still be aware of any changes in how your breasts look and feel at different times. If you notice anything out of the usual for you, tell your doctor or breast care nurse as soon as possible.

Rarely, a woman with LCIS may decide to have both breasts removed (bilateral mastectomy). This may be when a woman also has a strong family history of breast cancer, or is extremely anxious about her risk of developing breast cancer. Talk to your doctor or breast care nurse if you are worried about your family history or your risk of developing breast cancer.

Research – clinical trials for LCIS

Women with LCIS may be invited to take part in a clinical trial that’s looking at reducing breast cancer risk. This will depend on the trials that are going on at the time.

The hormonal therapy drugs tamoxifen, exemestane and anastrozole can all be used to treat breast cancer. Results of previous trials have shown that treatment with these drugs can reduce the risk of breast cancer in women with LCIS. But it's not clear if the possible risks and side effects of the drugs make up for this reduction in risk.

Back to Pre-cancerous conditions

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