Nearly 60,000 women a year are told they have the earliest form of breast cancer, called ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, according to the American Cancer Society. DCIS accounts for up to 25 percent of breast cancers. A recent study, though, is adding fuel to the argument that this non-invasive form of the disease is being over-diagnosed and over-treated.
The research in JAMA Oncology looked at more than 100,000 women with DCIS and found aggressive treatments do not reduce breast cancer mortality rates. So some patients are opting to watch and wait instead of dive into treatments such as surgery and sometimes radiation.
That was the choice facing 52-year-old Barbara Mann, who was diagnosed with DCIS after a routine mammogram three years ago. She said her initial reaction was, "Get this out of my system."
But her doctor, breast cancer surgeon Dr. Laura Esserman at the University of California, San Francisco, is considered a pioneer of "active surveillance" or "watchful waiting" treatment for breast cancer. Instead of heading into surgery for a biopsy, lumpectomy, or mastectomy, Esserman monitors some patients who've been diagnosed with low-grade DCIS with additional screenings and medication for six months.