New research shows early breast cancer treatments may be ineffective

They’re the words no woman wants to hear – “early stage of breast cancer” – and of course, we want to do something about it straight away. But new research suggests that diving in with treatment for Stage 0 breast cancer may not make you any less likely to fall victim to the disease.

“Stage 0″ breast cancer refers to”pre-invasive” breast cancer such as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), according to Cancer Australia. These are considered possible precursors to what could turn into a deadly tumour.

The Canadian study, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, found that women who undergo single or double mastectomies, lumpectomy or radiation therapy as treatment for DCIS are probably not increasing their chances of survival.

Women in whom DCIS were detected had close to the same likelihood of dying of breast cancer as women in the general population, and the few who died did so despite treatment, not for lack of it, the Women’s College Research Institute in Toronto study argues.

Researchers studied more that 100,000 women diagnosed with DCIS over 20 years and found 97 per cent of them did not die from breast cancer after undergoing treatment. The 3 per cent of women who did pass away from cancer over the 20 years did so because the DCIS had spread through their bodies before the lump in their breasts was removed.

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According to USA Today, there is division in the medical community over whether DCIS should be classified as cancer. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, said a third of doctors believe DCIS is not cancer, a third believe it’s pre-cancer and another third believe it’s cancer.

The research will help doctors determine the best treatment options for patients. It may be the case that aggressive treatment, such as lumpectomies, lumpectomies with radiology and mastectomies, is often not necessary, and that a “wait and watch” approach more suitable.

Steven Narod, the lead author of the study says the goal of the research is to get to the point where doctors can tell whether a woman with DCIS needs aggressive, hormonal or observational therapy to reduce her risk.

Have you ever had a lumpectomy or other treatment for the early stages of breast cancer? Share your experience below.