There is a new cancer in town. It is called ‘stage zero breast cancer.’ Stage zero is a breast cancer that has been diagnosed in hundreds of women in recent years. This cancer is treatable and recurrence is rare. The question is, must it even be treated at all?
Stage zero breast cancer used to be called, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). DCIS is a condition where non-cancerous calcifications are found in a woman’s milk duct. DCIS is only found via x-ray and usually diagnosed in women over 50 years of age.
When DCIS was previously treated as a non-cancerous breast condition, the treatment was often a lumpectomy and the women were sent on their way. When the same condition is diagnosed as cancer, the treatment becomes more severe. Stage zero cancer treatment includes surgery, radiation, and a daily medication which may have uncomfortable side effects.
Some women, when diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer, have strong reactions to the news. Wanda Sykes, an internationally known comedienne, was diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer in 2011. She elected to undergo a double mastectomy in order to control the disease. Although this type of surgery is aggressive for stage zero cancer, she feels peace of mind that she has avoided the cancer altogether.
Other women, receiving the same diagnosis, make different decisions. One woman chose to have the lumpectomy, but declined the radiation and medication. The possibility of cancer is no longer in her system.
Most women will take the middle road and undergo recommended treatment. They will have the lumpectomy, experience a short period of radiation treatments, and become loyal to the medication. Women who follow this program of treatment are usually deemed cancer free within six months.
If a woman is diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer it is important that she does as much research as possible. Asking thorough questions and obtaining a second opinion are highly recommended. While some stage zero breast cancer situations may only require limited treatment, it is still important to know as much about the disease as possible. Any illness that has the word ‘cancer’ in its nomenclature can lead to death. Diagnosis should not be taken lightly. Understanding should be thorough.
With the occurrence of stage zero breast cancer on the rise, knowledge about the disease is increasing as well. Initial shock and fear of the word ‘cancer’ may lead to the treatment of many cases that could be harmless. Greater understanding will reduce the need for invasive treatments for most patients. Knowing more about this condition will empower women to make the best choice for themselves when faced with the diagnosis of a potentially life-threatening condition.