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Non-Invasive Breast Cancer: Redefining The Meaning of Cancer

| Date Posted: 12/19/2011 | Author: Chris Whitesell

The word “cancer” is a highly charged word that can instill fear and anxiety in most people. In the past, it has been used to describe the existence of aberrant-looking cells in the body. However, some experts say that the term cancer is out-of-date and inaccurate for many non-invasive conditions, including Stage 0 breast cancer.

Determining whether your breast cancer is invasive or non-invasive is essential to formulating an effective treatment plan to eradicate the cancer. Invasive cancer spreads to the surrounding healthy breast tissue. This cancer is more aggressive and can travel to other parts of your body. Any breast cancer staged above 0 is considered invasive.

It is estimated that about 20% of all breast cancers are diagnosed at Stage 0. At this stage, the cancer is localized within a duct or lobule and has not spread into the surrounding tissues. This condition is often called lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) and most oncologists believe it is not a true breast cancer. This is one of the reasons that the National Institutes of Health lobbied to change the name of Stage 0 breast cancer.

Taking the word “cancer” out of a stage 0 diagnosis can also take some of the initial panic and fear that is associated with this disease. According Otis Brawley, MD, the American Cancer Society's chief scientific and medical officer, the idea that all untreated cancers are deadly began in the 19th century, when German pathologist Rudolph Virchow concluded from patient autopsies that aberrant-looking cells caused cancer and that cancer was fatal. Since then, we have learned that the presence of aberrant-looking cells is not sufficient for a cancer diagnosis. Instead, the physician must take into account the probability that a tumor is deadly.

In an effort to change the medical vocabulary, some groups and organizations have tried to rename non-invasive cancers in an attempt to remove the emotionally charged term “cancer” from diagnosis. The hope is to redefine cancer so that it is not over diagnosed causing patients to undergo the needless treatment of harmless but aberrant looking cells. No matter what you call it, it is important that each patient receives the highest level of treatment and care for the best chance for a full recovery.

FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital provides world-class breast cancer treatment in North Carolina including the Pinehurst, Raeford, Sanford, Rockingham, Laurinburg, Troy and Lumberton regions of NC.

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