When is breast cancer not a cancer?

Dr Jocelyn Lippey

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) accounts for approximately 20% of all new “breast cancer” diagnoses in Australia each year. Despite the word carcinoma within the name it holds no malignant potential and the diagnosis itself has no impact on life expectancy. It is a diagnosis of screening mostly being asymptomatic and there is no doubt that a proportion of patients treated for DCIS will constitute overdiagnosis. This has led towards the international move of de-escillation however as digital mammography improves so does our rates of diagnosis of this non-obligatory precursor for cancer.

The physical and psychological impact of a DCIS diagnosis can be huge and paradoxically this pre invasive condition is more likely to result in mastectomy than invasive disease. The nomenclature of DCIS continues to confuse not just patients but also clinicians. The vast array of descriptions and facts given about DCIS compound the confusion can make patients diagnosis and treatment “journey” even more difficult.


Jocelyn Lippey is a breast surgeon from Melbourne, Victoria. Having completed her general surgery fellowship through the Austin hospital she underwent post fellowship training through Breast Surg ANZ at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in 2015 and Perth in 2016 working at Royal Perth and Fiona Stanley Hospitals.

She is a current recipient of an NBCF practitioners grant to develop a risk communication tool as part of a risk-stratified Breast screening trial as well as doing clinical work at St Vincent’s and The Northern hospital in Melbourne. She also co-ordinates a unit of study for University of Sydney’s Masters of Breast Surgery.

Her interests include research into breast cancer, risk communication, tailored breast screening and DCIS as well as oncoplastic and reconstructive surgery.