Breast cancer is thought to begin in the lining of the breast ducts with an increase in the lining cells termed intraductal carcinoma in situ or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Sometimes these cells will necrose and calcify manifesting on a mammogram as microcalfications. Unfortunately, these specks of calcium do not demarcate the extent of the disease. This, along with the fact that we don’t know the basic anatomical patterns of the breast ducts, means that surgeons are blindly removing tissue in an inefficient effort to remove the pathology, more often than not leading to mastectomy in an attempt to eliminate a disease which is not life threatening nor even cancer by most definitions.
An understanding of the usual distribution of the milk ducts in the breast along with common variations has the potential to put the surgery of the breast on anatomical footing. It would also set the stage for further exploration of non-invasive ways to address the premalignant condition of DCIS through ductoscopy, local therapy, or watchful waiting.
The purpose of this research study is to create a functional map of the breast ducts so that doctors can better diagnose, treat, and – eventually – learn how to prevent breast cancer. The research team will first determine the ideal state of the lactating breast for imaging, i.e. full, empty, or in between, as well as the best procedure for capturing the data, before recruiting women for a larger study.