A cancer diagnosis in any form is scary. So what does it mean when you’re told you have “pre-cancer” of the breast? The truth is, even doctors aren’t exactly sure.
But a massive new study has the medical community rethinking its approach to treatment, and has led to questions about whether thousands of women are undergoing unnecessary surgery and radiation treatment.
The “pre-cancer” in question is called ductal-carcinoma in situ (DCIS), and it denotes the presence of atypical cells that have not yet left the milk ducts. DCIS is considered “stage zero,” but the oncology community has not reached consensus on what exactly DCIS is, and whether it should be considered a cancer, a precursor to cancer, or simply a risk factor. For many women, tumors never advance beyond their initial occurrence, in situ.