Many people have never heard of stage zero breast cancer, but the American Cancer Society states that more than 63,000 cases will be diagnosed this year.
Cody Gunn, MD, a breast surgeon at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center, believes it’s important for women to be familiar with stage zero breast cancer and how to treat it.
Stage Zero breast cancer, also known as ductal carcinoma in situ, is when abnormal cells are lodged in one or more of the breast ducts, but have not yet penetrated through the wall of the duct into surrounding tissue. These abnormal cells cannot spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body as long as they are contained within the duct.
Current treatment options include removal of the breast tissue that involves the cancer and radiation therapy or a mastectomy, which removes the entire breast tissue.
Most studies have demonstrated that patients who do not receive radiation therapy after surgery for stage zero breast cancer have an increased risk of developing invasive breast cancer.
If the cancer is responsive to estrogen, your doctor may prescribe an anti-hormone medication for up to 10 years following surgery.
Over one-third of women diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer will go on to develop invasive breast cancer, which can take many decades to develop. The higher the grade cell, the more likely and more rapidly it may become invasive.
There is a current clinical trial following women with low-grade stage zero breast cancer to ascertain whether non-surgical management with active surveillance is safe. However, it will be many years before there are any results or changes in the standard of care.
“As always, women are urged to perform self-exams and report any changes or irregularities to their doctor, but with stage zero there is not likely to be a palpable lump, that’s why it’s important for women to continue to have routine mammograms performed annually.”
- Dr. Cody Gunn
Breast Surgeon at Piedmont Athens Rgional
For more information on cancer services, visit piedmont.org/cancer.