Good News for Older Women With Early Breast Cancer

FRIDAY, Jan. 27, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Older women treated for a very early form of breast cancer, called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), do not have an overall increased risk of early death compared to their peers, a new study finds.

“Being diagnosed with DCIS can be extremely distressing, and research indicates that many women overestimate the risks involved and are confused about treatment. This study should provide reassurance that a diagnosis of DCIS does not raise the risk of dying,” said Dr. Lotte Elshof. She is an epidemiologist at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam.

Elshof was to present the findings Friday at the European Cancer Congress in Amsterdam.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, DCIS “is a noninvasive cancer where abnormal cells have been found in the lining of the breast milk duct. The atypical cells have not spread outside of the ducts into the surrounding breast tissue. Ductal carcinoma in situ is very early cancer that is highly treatable. . . .”

Untreated, DCIS can progress into invasive life-threatening breast cancer. However, it is usually treated with either surgery alone, or a combination of surgery and radiation therapy.

To determine the prognosis of older women diagnosed with DCIS, Elshof’s team tracked 10-year outcomes for 10,000 Dutch women who were diagnosed with the condition between 1989 and 2004.

Women older than 50 who had been treated for DCIS actually had a 10 percent lower risk of dying from all causes combined, compared with women in the general population, the researchers found.

Specifically, the DCIS patients were less likely to die from other types of cancer and from circulatory, respiratory and digestive diseases, the findings showed.

“It might seem surprising that this group of women actually has a lower mortality rate than the general population. However, the vast majority would have been diagnosed via breast screening, which suggests they may be health-conscious and well enough to participate in screening,” Elshof explained in a news release from the European Cancer Congress.

The study also looked at the risk of death from breast cancer. The investigators found that women treated for DCIS had a 2.5 percent risk of breast cancer death after 10 years, and a 4 percent risk after 15 years.

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