Further tests for DCIS

If the mammogram shows signs of DCIS, you will have further tests to find out more. You may have more mammograms that focus on a particular area of your breast. These can be taken from different angles or by using magnification.

You may also have an ultrasound of your breast. An ultrasound uses sound waves to build up a picture of the breast tissue. It can show if an abnormal area is solid (made of cells) or is a fluid-filled cyst.

You will need to have a breast biopsy before being diagnosed. This is when the doctor takes a small piece of tissue or cells (biopsy) from any abnormal areas. A pathologist will examine the tissue or cells under a microscope to look for cancer cells. A pathologist is a doctor who specialises in analysing cells.

There are different ways of taking a biopsy. Your doctor or nurse will explain the type of biopsy you will have.

Waiting for test results can be difficult. You may find it helpful to talk to your partner, family or a close friend.

Having further tests for DCIS

If the mammogram shows signs that could be DCIS, you’ll have further tests at a breast assessment clinic. You may have a magnified mammogram to look at an area more clearly. You may also have an ultrasound of your breast.

You’ll need to have samples of tissue removed from the micro-calcification (a biopsy). These are examined under a microscope for DCIS or cancer cells.


Breast ultrasound

An ultrasound uses sound waves to build up a picture of the breast. It can show if an abnormal area is solid (made of cells) or is a fluid-filled cyst.

You’ll be asked to take off your top and bra, and lie down on a couch with your arm above your head. The person doing the scan puts a gel onto your breast and moves a small hand-held device around the area. A picture of the inside of the breast shows up on a screen. They may also do an ultrasound of the lymph nodes in your armpit.

An ultrasound only takes a few minutes and is painless.


Breast biopsy

This is when the doctor takes a small piece of tissue or cells (biopsy) from any abnormal areas. A pathologist will examine the tissue or cells under a microscope to look for cancer cells. A pathologist is a doctor who specialises in analysing cells. For a few days afterwards, your breast may feel sore and bruised. Taking painkillers will help with this. Any bruising will go away in a couple of weeks. There are different ways of taking a biopsy. Your doctor or nurse will explain the type of biopsy you will have.

Ultrasound guided needle biopsy

Before the biopsy, your doctor will inject some local anaesthetic into the breast to numb the area. You may feel a little soreness or a sensation of pressure, but this should only last for a short time.

An ultrasound scan is then used to show where the micro-calcification is and to help the doctor guide a needle through the skin into the exact area to be sampled.

You’ll have a few biopsies taken at the same time. Afterwards, your breast may be bruised and feel sore. You can take painkillers until this eases.

Mammogram needle biopsy

Sometimes, a mammogram is used to guide the biopsy. This is known as a stereotactic needle biopsy.

You‘ll be positioned in a mammography machine that has a special device attached. In most units, the test is done while you’re sitting down. In a few units, women are asked to lie on their front. The radiographer then takes an x-ray of your breast from two different angles to work out the exact position of the abnormal area. A needle can then be put into the right place to take a sample.

Vacuum-assisted biopsy (VAB)

This type of biopsy uses a special vacuum-assisted technique. It provides more tissue for diagnosis.

First, the doctor will numb the area with an injection of local anaesthetic. A small cut is then made in the skin. A tiny instrument or probe is placed through the cut into the breast tissue and guided to the correct area using a mammogram. When the probe is in the correct position, a vacuum gently draws out and collects a piece of breast tissue.

Several biopsies can be taken in this way, usually without having to remove and reinsert the probe.

Afterwards, the probe is taken out and the cut is covered with a small dressing, with no need for any stitches. The whole procedure takes about an hour and you’ll be able to go home straight after.

Side effects after a VAB are generally mild, but you may have bruising and feel a bit sore for a few days afterwards.

Fine needle aspiration (FNA)

This is a quick, simple test. The doctor or nurse puts a very fine needle into the area and withdraws a sample of cells into a syringe. This test is often used to take a sample of cells from lymph nodes in your armpit.


Other tests for DCIS

You may have some other tests which will not be done at the assessment clinic. You will be given an appointment to come to the hospital for these.

Excision biopsy

Occasionally, the doctor makes a cut in the skin of the breast and removes the abnormal area. This is done under a general or local anaesthetic. You may need to stay in hospital overnight if you have had a general anaesthetic. Usually, you have stitches that dissolve and don’t need to be removed.

Wire localisation

Sometimes, an x-ray or ultrasound is used to guide a fine wire into the breast to mark exactly where the surgeon should take the biopsy. The surgeon removes the wire when the excision biopsy is done.

Examining the tissue under a microscope (pathology)

A doctor who specialises in cell types (pathologist) will examine the tissue taken during a biopsy under a microscope. The pathologist looks at the type of cells and how abnormal they are (the grade).

All this information is reported back to your breast specialist.


Waiting for test results

Waiting for test results can be a difficult time. It may take from a few days to a couple of weeks for the results of your tests to be ready. You may find it helpful to talk with your partner, family or a close friend. Your specialist nurse or one of the organisations listed on our database, can also provide support. You can also talk things over with one of our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.


Back to Tests and scans

Being diagnosed with DCIS

You may be diagnosed with DCIS after having a mammogram through the NHS Breast Screening Programme.