Key Points about Noninvasive Breast Cancer

  • Noninvasive breast cancer begins in the breast and has not spread to any other areas of the body.
  • Doctors use biopsy and imaging tests to diagnose noninvasive breast cancer.
  • Treatment for noninvasive breast cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
  • Following your doctor’s recommendation for starting regular mammograms is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of developing noninvasive breast cancer.


Breast cancer is cancer that begins in the breast tissue. When breast cancer is identified as noninvasive, this means that the cancer has remained in the original place that it began, such as in the milk duct or lobular tissue.

The two main types of noninvasive breast cancer are:

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) - this type of breast cancer begins in the milk duct and has not spread beyond that location.
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) - this type of breast abnormality begins in the lobule of the breast and has not spread beyond that location, LCIS is not cancer but rather a condition that puts you at an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Noninvasive breast cancer causes

Breast cancer is caused by mutations (changes) to the DNA of the cells of the breast.

Noninvasive breast cancer risk factors

The following factors may increase your risk for developing noninvasive breast cancer:

  • Being Caucasian
  • Being obese
  • Being older, especially over age 55
  • Having a family history of breast cancer
  • Having children when you are older than 35
  • Having dense breasts
  • Never having had children

Noninvasive breast cancer symptoms

Signs and symptoms of invasive breast cancer may include:

  • A change in the shape or size of a breast
  • A lump in the breast or underarm area
  • A marble-like hardened area of skin on or around the breast
  • Change in shape or position of a nipple
  • Discharge from the nipple that is bloody or clear
  • Nipple retraction, meaning that it’s pushed in rather than sticking out
  • Red or scaly breast skin or nipple
  • Skin of the breast that is dimpled or puckered
  • Swelling in the breast

Noninvasive breast cancer diagnosis

Your oncologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:

  • 3D mammography (screening) - doctors use this advanced technology because it takes multiple X-rays (images) of breast tissue from many angles and creates a three-dimensional picture of the breast. 3D mammography is also called tomosynthesis.
  • Diagnostic mammogram - doctors may recommend a diagnostic mammogram if you have a problem in your breast, such as a lump or an area that looks abnormal on a screening mammogram. A diagnostic mammogram takes more detailed X-ray pictures of the breast.
  • Biopsy - in this test, your doctor removes a biopsy (small tissue sample) from the suspicious area. This sample is sent to the laboratory, where a specialist closely checks the biopsy for abnormalities.
  • Breast MRI - this type of imaging test uses high-powered magnets to create detailed images of the inside of your body. Your doctor can closely examine these images to look for any areas that could indicate cancer.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan - this type of imaging test provides a 3-D image of the inside of the body that your doctor can use to determine if there is any cancer present.
  • Diagnostic ultrasound - this uses a probe to look at certain areas of the breast in a different way. This is used to target a specific area and is a great way to look for solid masses or cysts.

Noninvasive breast cancer treatments

Depending on your personal health history, the extent of your breast cancer and other factors, your oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:

  • Surgery - in most cases, your doctor will recommend a surgical procedure to remove the cancerous area. Your surgeon will work to preserve as much surrounding healthy tissue as possible. In some cases, you may opt to undergo reconstructive surgery following surgery to treat breast cancer.
  • Radiation therapy - this treatment uses high-powered energy beams to destroy cancerous cells. You may need to undergo radiation therapy to destroy any cancerous cells that couldn’t be removed surgically.
  • Chemotherapy - you may need to undergo chemotherapy to destroy any cancerous cells that couldn’t be removed surgically. During this treatment, medication is used to destroy cancerous cells. Chemotherapy can be taken via an oral (by mouth) pill or intravenously (through a vein).

When should I seek care?

If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.

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