Health News

Study Questions Aggressive Treatment of ‘Stage 0’ Breast Cancer

A new study released in the Journal of American Medical Association suggests that women with localized cancerous lesions known as DCIS or “Stage 0” breast cancer may not have to undergo radiation treatment or invasive surgery.

ABC News discussed the study and the ramifications of the results garnered from a pool of more than 100,000 women. In the past, women with localized lesions often underwent radiation treatments or removals of the lesions.

However, research shows that the surgeries may be redundant in most cases because only 3.3 percent of women with Stage 0 breast cancer died.

Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a medical consultant, was quoted as saying that breast cancer cases cover a “spectrum” stages that included DCIS/Stage 0 cancer.

It’s a spectrum from normal to atypical cells to DCIS to invasive ductal breast cancer. The controversy here lies in the middle stage and how best to treat them or if they should be treated at all.

The alternative to choosing against surgery or radiation treatment for Stage 0 breast cancer is taking a “wait-and-see” approach, where the patient and doctor observe the pre-cancerous area to make sure it doesn’t become full-fledged cancer.

This philosophy, however, can cause emotional distress because women will have to live with the fear that, at any moment, their DCIS could become cancer.

Ashton was quoted as saying that waiting is “not only frightening,” but that’s also “challenging” for doctors and the medical community at large.

It’s not only frightening, but this concept of watchful waiting is challenging for the medical community, doctors and in the patient. Should his type of lesion be treated, and if so, in what type of patient?

News site North Jersey quoted a local breast surgeon as saying that the debate about whether or not to treat DCIS patients is tricky because doctors “don’t have enough information” to know whether each patient’s condition will get worse or stay the same.

The problem we have in treating this disease is we don’t have enough information, as physicians at this point in history, to decide which DCIS [cases] are going to be the bad guys — which are going to progress if left untreated.

According to a report by CTV News, about 97 percent of women who have DCIS will “still be alive 20 years after their diagnosis” and that “aggressive early treatments do not appear to alter the course their disease takes.”

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