Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death among women in the United States today. Many experts emphasize the importance of early stage care, but is this always a good idea?
CBS news reports on early stage breast cancer treatment.
A new study questions whether early treatment is necessary and the right approach.
“New research shows that chances of dying from very early breast cancer are small but the disease is riskier for young women and black women, the same disparities seen for more advanced cancer,” according to CBS.
Fatalities in the last twenty years after diagnosis totaled around 3 percent for women whose breast cancer was confined to a milk duct. The death rates were two times as high for those younger than the age of thirty-five at diagnosis and in blacks, but still less than those with more common invasive breast cancers.
The findings of this new study are adding fuel to the fire in the ongoing debate over how to treat these early types of tumors that some have said should not even be considered a true cancer because they rarely spread in the body.
How was the study conducted?
The research team analyzed U.S. government data on more than 100,000 women diagnosed from 1988 to 2011 with DCIS - ductal carcinoma in situ. The median age of the women was 54 on average at diagnosis.
Dr. Steven Narod, the lead author and a senior scientist at Women's College Research Institute in Toronto, commented on his study. He said, “Though low, the risk of dying from breast cancer was almost twice as high as the breast cancer rate in the general population of U.S. women.”
He also said that over 900 women died of breast cancer during the study years. Some of these women had developed invasive disease in either breast, but more than 500 deaths were in women never diagnosed with a second tumor or recurrence, meaning their DCIS had likely spread before they received any type of treatment.
This new study was published on Thursday in JAMA Oncology.
DCIS will be discovered in around 60,000 U.S. women this year, versus more than 230,000 women expected to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, according to cancer. A larger majority of women have been diagnosed with DCIS in recent years due to increased screening and better imaging techniques at facilities.
What do these techniques consist of in general? Dr. Narod says that standard DCIS treatment consists of a lumpectomy followed by radiation, although some women choose to have the entire breast or even both breasts taken out. The study also found that radiation decreased chances for disease recurrence but didn't lower 20-year survival chances; that may actually lead some women to skip radiation treatment.
Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, the American Cancer Society's deputy chief medical officer, commented on the findings saying that these are tough choices. He said, “Women diagnosed with DCIS shouldn't panic, he said, because chances for being cured are good. Still, the study shows the disease can behave like invasive cancer and doctors should discuss rates for recurrence and death, and inform patients of all options, he said.”