Ductal Carcinoma in Situ Diagnosis

For many patients, a ductal carcinoma in situ diagnosis is made after a routine mammogram reveals a cluster of abnormal cells within the milk ducts. On a mammogram, ductal carcinoma in situ typically shows up as a small, shadowy area or white speckles in the tubes that connect the milk glands to the nipple. Studies suggest that up to 80 percent of all cases are identified during screening tests; as mammograms have become more widely available, oncologists have been able to detect more and more breast cancers in this early, noninvasive stage.

While a mammogram by itself can’t confirm a ductal carcinoma in situ diagnosis, it can set the diagnostic process in motion. If, based on the results of a patient’s imaging scan, a physician thinks that ductal carcinoma in situ might be present, he or she might perform:

  • A physical exam – Although ductal carcinoma in situ typically does not produce a tumor that can be felt by hand, a physician will still check for any lumps or other palpable abnormalities.
  • A fine needle aspiration biopsy – A physician might use a small, hollow needle to retrieve a sample of cells for further testing without leaving any scars. 
  • A core needle biopsy – A physician might use a slightly larger needle to obtain several different cell samples, using a tiny incision to access the suspicious area.

In the majority of cases, a fine needle biopsy or core needle biopsy can obtain a large enough cell sample for diagnostic testing. However, if a needle biopsy doesn’t collect enough cells for adequate testing, or if the results come back inconclusive, a different technique might be performed instead. During an incisional biopsy, a small piece of tissue is surgically removed and sent to a lab for examination; during an excisional biopsy, all of the suspicious cells are removed and tested upon removal. However, these techniques are not often used to diagnose ductal carcinoma in situ.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we offer a range of diagnostic testing services for each type of breast cancer, including imaging scans and lab tests. Our experienced oncologists can determine which procedure is most appropriate for a patient, then obtain prompt and accurate results by working with our on-site pathology and radiology teams. Cellular grading and hormone-receptor testing are also performed at Moffitt. And, as part of our commitment to early detection, we offer routine breast cancer screenings and mammograms.

Referrals are not required to schedule a screening, obtain follow-up testing after an abnormal imaging scan or request a second opinion about a ductal carcinoma in situ diagnosis made by another physician. To schedule an appointment, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online.