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Stage 0' breast cancer over-treated, suggests new Canadian study

TORONTO - Many women are receiving unnecessary treatment for a condition that is sometimes called Stage 0 breast cancer, the findings of a new Canadian study suggest.

Women who undergo single or double mastectomies or radiation as treatment for ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, do not appear to be increasing their chances of survival, the paper argues.

The vast majority of patients — nearly 97 per cent — are expected to still be alive 20 years after their diagnosis, based on the findings of the study done by researchers at Toronto's Women's College Hospital and the University of Toronto; it is published in the journal JAMA Oncology.

While 3.3 per cent will die, aggressive early treatments do not appear to alter the course their disease takes, the scientists report.

With DCIS, cancerous cells are found in the milk ducts of the breast. The current approach to DCIS is to remove the affected portion of the breast and treat with radiation to lower the risk the cancer will return or spread. But some women want more reassurance and opt for surgery to remove one or both breasts.

An editorial accompanying the article argues the findings should lead to a dialling back of the way women diagnosed with DCIS are treated.

"It's not an emergency. It's just not an emergency," Dr. Laura Esserman, lead author of the editorial, said in a telephone interview.

"We need to stop the urgency, be more thoughtful, start generating different approaches, think about it as prevention."

The Vancouver Sun

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