Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Breast imaging

DCIS is most often discovered during a mammogram used to screen for breast cancer. If suspicious areas such as shadows or bright white specks (microcalcifications) are identified on your mammogram, your radiologist likely will recommend additional breast imaging. You may have a diagnostic mammogram, which takes views at higher magnification from more angles, to take a closer look at the microcalcifications and to evaluate both breasts. If the area of concern needs further evaluation, the next step could be an ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test or breast biopsy.

Removing breast tissue samples for testing

To collect breast tissue for testing, you may undergo one or more types of breast biopsy procedures:

  • Core needle biopsy. A radiologist or surgeon uses a hollow needle to remove tissue samples from the suspicious area. The tissue samples are sent to a lab for analysis.
  • Stereotactic biopsy. This type of biopsy also involves removing tissue samples with a hollow needle, but with the help of stereo images — mammogram images of the same area obtained from different angles — to find (localize) the area of concern.
  • Surgical biopsy (wide local excision or lumpectomy). If results from a core needle biopsy or stereotactic biopsy show areas of DCIS, you'll likely be referred to a surgeon to discuss your options for surgically removing a wider area of breast tissue for analysis.

A pathologist will analyze the breast tissue from your biopsy to determine whether abnormal cells are present and how aggressive those abnormal cells appear. If your mammogram showed microcalcifications, the pathologist will examine the biopsy sample for those abnormalities.

Jun. 23, 2011