You are here

The mysterious Stage O

...pre-cancer of the breast
Published: 
Saturday, March 18, 2017

Avril Harry Breast Care Nurse, RN, BSc Oncology Nursing Pink Hibiscus Breast The less commonly talked about but undoubtedly the earliest form of pre-cancer of the b

The number of DCIS cases has increased in recent years, but due to technological advancements in digital mammography and better screening approaches by specialist breast screening centres, people do not develop florid breast cancers (which need radiation and chemotherapy).

Many women are upset and frightened by a diagnosis of DCIS. However, DCIS, though it falls under the breast cancer classification system, is not breast cancer and is considered Stage 0.

A diagnosis of DCIS means that these pre-cancerous cells found in the lining of the breast duct, once treated, will not spread. The fact that DCIS can’t spread means that it is not life threatening as invasive breast cancer. By this definition, it is not invasive, which is a classic characteristic feature of cancer.

Most people with DCIS have no symptoms (no pain, no lump, no changes in the breast). The only way DCIS is detected is by having a digital mammogram. This is the very point we have tried to emphasize in our articles over the years—early detection, more so of Stage 0 breast cancers, can save lives. It therefore means that DCIS is highly treatable and the prognosis is excellent.

However, if untreated, DCIS has the potential to progress to Stage 1 breast cancer, which has the potential to spread. It is also important to appreciate that there are no tests at this time to predict which cases of DCIS will turn into invasive breast cancer and which will not. It therefore means that almost every case of DCIS is treated with breast surgery. The aim of surgical intervention is to remove all the areas of DCIS from within the breast to reduce the chance of it becoming invasive.

The standard of care for DCIS can be breast-conserving surgery which is an absolutely safe approach depending on the extent of DCIS present. Though, in some cases, a mastectomy is more likely to be recommended if the DCIS is in more than one location in the breast. In effect, surgery alone in many instances is the only treatment intervention that may be required. Your breast specialist will give further guidance based on your individual situation.

Studies indicate that the long-term disease-free survival of women treated for DCIS is between 96 per cent and 98 per cent.

A 2015 research indicated that the death rate for women with DCIS is very low—about three per cent over the next 20 years after diagnosis, compared to about 1.5 per cent for the general population of women.