Being diagnosed with DCIS

Most women with DCIS have no symptoms and the DCIS is found through changes seen on a mammogram. More women are having mammograms as part of the National Breast Screening Programme, so DCIS is now diagnosed much more often than it used to be. One in five breast cancers found by screening in the UK are DCIS.

The NHS Breast Screening Programmes aim to find breast cancer very early so women have the best chance of a cancer being cured. In the UK, women aged 50–70 are invited to attend breast screening every three years. In England, the age range is gradually being extended to include women aged 47–73.

Mammogram

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray of the breast, which can detect changes in the breast tissue.

You will need to undress down to your waist. The radiographer will then position you so that your breast is against the x-ray machine. Your breast will be gently but firmly flattened with a clear, plastic plate. Your breast needs to be held this way to keep it still and to get a clear picture. You might find this uncomfortable or even painful, but this should only last for as long as the mammogram takes. Some women may feel tender in the area for a few days afterwards. Painkillers can help with this.

You will have two x-rays of each breast taken from different angles. Women who have very large breasts might need to have extra x-rays to make sure all the breast tissue is included.

You need to stay still for less than a minute while each mammogram is taken. You can say stop at any time if you feel too uncomfortable. The radiographer carries out many mammograms every day and will try to make you as comfortable as possible.

In younger women, the breast tissue is more dense (has less fat). This makes it difficult to detect any changes on the mammogram.

I would say please go to the screening. It saved my life and it could save yours. It’s only 10 minutes to go through the whole process and it’s a life-saver.

Jacky

Micro-calcification

DCIS usually shows up as an area of tiny specks of calcium, known as micro-calcifications, which collect in the milk ducts and lobules.

Micro-calcifications can’t usually be felt and are detected by a mammogram. They are common as women get older and are usually harmless. But in a small number of cases, a group of micro-calcifications in one area (a cluster) can be a sign of DCIS or early breast cancer.

If micro-calcifications are found, you’ll usually have a magnified mammogram to examine the area more closely. A radiologist will look at the size, shape and pattern of the calcification.

If your mammograms show possible signs of DCIS, you’ll have further tests to find out more.

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