Women opting for surgery when they hear ‘cancer’
A new study shows that when it comes to treatment options for breast cancer, words mean everything. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that terminology health care providers used to describe ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)—a non-invasive, early form of breast cancer—to patients has a significant and important impact on patients’ perceptions of treatment alternatives.
When health care providers used the terms “breast lesion” and “abnormal cells” to describe DCIS, patients were more likely to choose nonsurgical options such as medication and active surveillance, rather than when providers described DCIS as “noninvasive cancer.” When DCIS is framed as a high-risk condition rather than as “cancer,” more than 65 percent of women in the study opted for nonsurgical treatments.
According to the American Cancer Society, DCIS is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. About 1 in 5 new breast cancer cases will be DCIS. Nearly all women diagnosed at this early stage of breast cancer can be cured.
“DCIS is the earliest stage of breast cancer,” says Dr. Michael Cochran, an oncologist with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “Traditional treatment is either a mastectomy or lumpectomy followed by radiation. If women pursue appropriate treatment, the prognosis is excellent.”
With respect to the terminology, Dr. Cochran offers, “I’m aware that it’s been debated whether or not to drop the term ‘carcinoma’ from the DCIS name. The name aside, however, patients should realize that if DCIS goes untreated, it could progress to a more serious cancer.”
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