How To Cope With DCIS

Image Source: Google Images

Image Source: Google Images

How To Cope With DCIS

Because of the fact that there has been so much controversy lately about overtreatment of DCIS, I thought it might be helpful to share with you some of the things that you can do after a DCIS diagnosis, and some good ways to cope with DCIS.

What Is DCIS?

DCIS stands for “ductal carcinoma in situ” and it means that there are too many cells and while they have the features of cancer, they are confined to the inside of the milk duct of the breast.  For more information about the different kinds of breast cancer, including DCIS, please see my article The Difference Between DCIS, LCIS, ILC, IBC, Paget’s Disease & Phyllodes Tumors.

Essentially, however, a DCIS diagnosis is a good thing.  It is the earliest stage of breast cancer, considered stage 0, and not invasive.  Some doctors treat it aggressively, with surgery (sometimes even mastectomy), chemotherapy and radiation, while others take a “wait and see” approach because it grows so slowly.  Most DCIS is discovered by mammogram, because it is usually undetectable by palpation.

Grading of DCIS

During a biopsy, when cells from your breast are removed for closer inspection, they are graded to help your physician determine the best course of treatment for you.  There are three grades of DCIS:

1.  Low or grade I – these look very similar to normal cells;

2.  Moderate or grade II – these cells grow faster than, and look less like, normal cells.

3.  High or grade III – these cells tend to grow more quickly and look much different from healthy breast cells.

Within the low-moderate grades, there are four further subclassifications:

Cribriform DCIS:  Gaps exist between cancer cells in the affected breast ducts, the pattern looks like little holes and slits.

Comedo Type DCIS: This type can be slightly more aggressive than other forms of DCIS.  The cells look and behave closer to invasive breast cancer cells. Comedo cells also look different under the microscope – the center of the duct is plugged with dead cellular debris known as necrosis.  Also, microcalcifications (small calcium deposits) are frequently seen in the areas of necrosis.

Micropapillary and papillary:  These two types have little fern-like projections of cells into the center of the duct. The micropapillary type projections are smaller than the papillary type.

How To Cope With a DCIS Diagnosis

The first thing is, don’t panic.  DCIS is not life threatening and you are in a very good position to manage this using a very natural approach.  Here are the things that I would recommend for you:

Step 1.  Build Up Your Immune System – Since we rely upon our immune system to be our first line of defense against disease and cancer, making it as strong as it can be is the most important step toward wellness.  See my page 8 Ways to Build a Super Strong Immune System.

Step 2. Get the Toxic Chemicals Out Of Your Life – Please immediately stop using grocery store body products and household cleaners.  They are full of hormone disrupting chemicals and these are putting us at a higher risk for breast cancer.  Become a label reader and an empowered consumer.  Let me know if you need help with products or resources to find out whether the ones you are using are safe.

Step 3.  Know Which Supplements Make The Biggest Difference To Your Daily Health – There are many research-backed supplements that will make a big difference to your breast health (and indeed your overall health). See my “must-have” list of supplements.

Step 4.  Get Your Estrogen Levels Checked – Most doctors don’t do this, but I believe that before we are prescribed hormone blocking drugs, we should be in possession of all the facts.  We might not even need them!  Read this article to decide which test is best for you:

Step 5.  Get Your Vitamin D Levels Checked – Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to breast cancer.  The test to ask for is 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D.  If you are low, take vitamin D3. The best, most therapeutic dose is 5,000 iu per day.

Step 6.  Get Your Thyroid Checked – There is almost always an issue with the thyroid after breast cancer treatments end, and sometimes even before diagnosis, so as long as you’re in the doctor’s office getting your vitamin D levels checked for step 5, get your thyroid checked out as well.

Step 7.  Eat Plenty of Super Foods Daily – Please include several servings of super foods daily, see my page Diet and Cancer for some ideas.  Know which foods help you and which ones don’t.  How important is the role of nutrition?  Every bite of food is either feeding cancer or starving it.  I’m not saying you can never enjoy a piece of chocolate cake again, but know which foods will help you counteract the “naughty days” and strive to do the right thing most of the time.

Step 8.  Exercise Daily – Or at least 5 times per week. Make sure to incorporate at least 30 minutes of walking, dancing, running, yoga, Pilates, cycling – whatever your passion, move your body!  It reduces your recurrence risk by a huge degree, especially when combined with Step 7 (and we have research to back that up).

Step 9.  Keep Stress Out Of Your Life – Whether you choose meditation, counseling, massage, Reiki, or acupuncture, keep those toxic stress levels away for good.  Most women tell me that in the lead-up to their breast cancer diagnosis, poorly managed stress was the key factor that they feel undermined their immune system and let cancer in the door.  Keeping stress away and dealing with toxic emotions is truly important.

Step 10.  Get Good Quality Sleep – If you don’t have it, take steps to repair it, sleep is that important. See my article Want to Sleep Better?

Step 11. Cleanse Your Bowel and Liver Regularly – It is good to do this every 6 months or so.  Please don’t ignore this step, it’s key for keeping you healthy.  There are many ways to do this. If you require help, work with me, with your naturopath or integrative oncologist.

As you can see, this is a sensible and holistic approach.  If you would like more tips from me, sign up for my free e-books and newsletters on the right side of this page, and/or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach). I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  


Oh and that controversy I was talking about – overdiagnosis and overtreatment of DCIS?  Read this article on the Breast Cancer Action website.

New Research Indicates Exercise Not Protective Against Non-Invasive Breast Cancer


Photo courtesy of / Vlado

Photo courtesy of / Vlado

New Research Indicates Exercise Not Protective Against Non-Invasive Breast Cancer

Researchers from 10 European countries published a study in the ‘Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention‘ journal which examined the association between physical activity and in situ, non-invasive breast cancer. 

The European researchers examined whether physical activity might have a protective effect against non-invasive breast cancer.  The study was a large one, it followed 283,927 women, 1,059 of whom had non-invasive breast cancer, and concluded that physical activity had no such protective effect.  Even the researchers were surprised at this finding, they clearly didn’t expect it.

According to the American Cancer Society, in 2011 230,480 American women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and an estimated 57,650 women were diagnosed with non-invasive “in situ” carcinoma.  Of these cases, about 85% will be ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), meaning the abnormal cells are contained within the milk ducts, and approximately 15% are lobular carcinoma in situ.

Controversy Over DCIS and Over-Treatment

To get slightly off the topic of exercise, I’d like to explain that “in situ” breast cancer is the most frequent form of non-invasive breast cancer and is thought to be a risk factor or precursor for the development of invasive breast cancer.  There is much controversy, however, about this.  To my knowledge, there is no available data on DCIS that is left untreated, but I did locate a interesting review of autopsy records which showed that somewhere between 9%-15% of women have undetected DCIS at death (Welch, 1997). 

Which totally supports the idea that many diagnosed with DCIS will not have a problem with progression into invasive cancer.  The problem is that we do not know how to identify which ones will and which ones won’t yet.  How best to treat DCIS, and even whether to consider it cancer, remain controversial and many women have undergone invasive procedures and toxic therapies that they probably should not have been subjected to.  See my recent article Breast Cancer Action Webinar Discusses Screening Mammography and Breast Cancer Overdiagnosis for more information.

Exercise Does Have Benefits For Invasive Breast Cancer

Interestingly, previous studies have shown that exercise does have value and protective benefits against invasive breast cancer.

There are many studies which have discovered that physically active menopausal women have a decreased chance of developing invasive breast cancer compared to their not-so-active menopausal counterparts.

Even though, according to the European study discussed above, exercise does not necessarily confer protective benefits against developing non-invasive breast cancer, it still carries so many other positive benefits and I will continue to recommend regular exercise to women.


Welch HG, Black WC. Using Autopsy Series To Estimate the Disease “Reservoir” for Ductal Carcinoma in Situ of the Breast: How Much More Breast Cancer Can We Find? Annals of Internal Medicine 1997; 127 (11) 1023-1028.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (  It is my honor to help you through this.


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