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Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive type of breast cancer in which abnormal cells form in the lining of a duct that carries milk from a milk-producing gland (lobule) to the nipple. At the time of diagnosis, the abnormal cells remain confined to the duct; they cancer has not spread to surrounding tissues or distant organs.

Considered to be the earliest form of breast cancer (stage 0), ductal carcinoma in situ is often detected during a routine mammogram. The condition is highly treatable and relatively common, accounting for approximately 20% of newly diagnosed breast cancer cases in the United States. The current standard of care for DCIS is breast-preserving surgery, such as a lumpectomy, followed by radiation therapy to help prevent a recurrence.

Most women who get diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of breast cancer. That’s why a yearly screening mammogram beginning at age 40 is so important for all women.

Early warning signs of ductal carcinoma in situ

Unlike most other types of breast cancer, DCIS does not cause distinctive symptoms, such as a breast lump. Usually, the cancer is found during a screening mammogram. In an X-ray image, possible signs of ductal carcinoma in situ include tiny clusters of calcium deposits (calcifications) and distorted breast tissue (architectural distortion), both of which warrant follow-up. As DCIS progresses, cancerous cells may spread beyond the milk duct and cause noticeable symptoms. For instance, a common early warning sign of advancing ductal carcinoma in situ is a breast lump.

Common symptoms of ductal carcinoma in situ

Usually, DCIS does not cause noticeable symptoms until—and unless—it progresses and develops into invasive breast cancer. It is important to note that ductal carcinoma in situ does not progress in every case.

What does ductal carcinoma in situ feel like?

The physical symptoms of invasive breast cancer can include:

  • A lump, mass or thickening that can be felt in the breast or armpit
  • Nipple tenderness
  • Breast skin itching
  • Breast pain

What does ductal carcinoma in situ look like?

The visible symptoms of invasive breast cancer can include:

  • An unexplained change in the size or shape of the breast
  • New breast asymmetry
  • Swelling in the breast, under the arm or around the collarbone
  • A newly inverted nipple
  • Unusual nipple discharge
  • Dimpling, puckering, thickening or pitting of the breast skin (similar to the texture of an orange peel)
  • Peeling, crusting, scaling or flaking of the breast skin or the pigmented area around the nipple (areola)
  • Redness or warmth in the breast skin
  • A red, scaly breast skin rash (Paget’s disease of the breast)
If you have received a breast cancer diagnosis or test results indicative of breast cancer, the experts at Moffitt can help. You can submit a new patient appointment request - no referral needed.
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Benefit from world-class care at Moffitt Cancer Center

The multispecialty team in Moffitt’s Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program offers the latest screening and diagnostic techniques for early-stage breast cancer, including DCIS, as well as a full range of treatment options. We provide comprehensive breast cancer care in a single location.

If you would like to learn more about ductal carcinoma in situ signs and symptoms, you can request an appointment with a specialist in our Don & Erika Wallace Comprehensive Breast Program by calling 1-888-663-3488 or submitting a new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.