When abnormal cells grow inside the lobules of the breast, but have not spread to nearby tissue or beyond, the condition is called lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS). The term "in situ" means "in place." With LCIS, the abnormal cells are still "in place" inside the lobules. Although the term LCIS includes the word “carcinoma,” LCIS is not invasive breast cancer.
Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) and breast cancer risk
Although LCIS is not invasive cancer, it increases the risk of getting invasive breast cancer in either breast.
LCIS has been considered a risk factor for breast cancer, but not a precursor (a condition that can develop into) to breast cancer. However, recent evidence shows some LCIS may develop into invasive lobular carcinoma (invasive breast cancer that begins in the lobules) [9-11].
Learn about LCIS and the risk of invasive breast cancer.
Breast cancer screening for women with LCIS
Because LCIS increases the risk of breast cancer, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has special screening recommendations for women with LCIS. Women with LCIS should :
This medical care helps ensure that if breast cancer does develop, it is caught early when the chances of survival are highest.
Risk-lowering options for women with LCIS
Risk-lowering drugs (chemoprevention)
Tamoxifen and raloxifene
Women with LCIS may take tamoxifen or raloxifene to try to lower the risk of invasive breast cancer . Tamoxifen and raloxifene only reduce the risk of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancers. Neither drug reduces the risk of estrogen receptor-negative cancers . Tamoxifen lowers the risk of breast cancer by about 50 percent and raloxifene lowers risk by about 38 percent . Although raloxifene is slightly less effective than tamoxifen in reducing breast cancer risk, it has fewer harmful health effects . This makes raloxifene a better choice for some women.
Raloxifene is only for use among postmenopausal women, while both pre- and postmenopausal women can use tamoxifen.
Learn more about tamoxifen and raloxifene.
The hormone drugs aromatase inhibitors are part of standard treatment for estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women (learn more). These drugs are now being studied to see whether they lower the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women at higher risk, including women with LCIS.
Findings from a recent randomized controlled trial showed the aromatase inhibitor exemestane (Aromasin) lowered the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women at higher risk (learn more) .
Although exemestane is FDA-approved for use in breast cancer treatment, it does not yet have FDA-approval for use as a risk-lowering drug.
Learn about emerging areas in risk-lowering drugs for women at higher risk of breast cancer.
Learn about exemestane and other aromatase inhibitors and breast cancer treatment.
Preventive surgery (prophylactic mastectomy)
A more drastic option for lowering breast cancer risk is to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. This surgery involves removing both breasts to try to keep cancer from developing.
Because regular breast cancer screening and tamoxifen (or raloxifene) are effective in greatly reducing risk, most women with LCIS choose these options over prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. Talk to your health care provider about the risks and benefits of all these options so you choose the one that is best for you.
Learn more about options for women at higher risk.
Komen Support Resources
- Our breast care helpline 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) provides free, professional support services and help finding local support groups. Our trained and caring staff are available to you and your family Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. EST and from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. PST.
- Our Message Boards offer online forums to share your thoughts or feelings about subjects related to breast cancer. Our Women at Higher Risk of Breast Cancer forum within the Message Boards offers women at higher risk a place to share their own unique experiences and challenges.