Lifewatch: Stage zero breast cancer

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - Cancer stage is based on the size of the tumor and also depends on whether the cancer is invasive or not, whether lymph nodes are involved and how far the cancer has spread.

The staging system helps doctors give women with breast cancer the best treatment to fight against it.

Deena Damsky Dell was diagnosed with "breast cancer stage zero," a description many have never heard of.

"To me it would make more sense if you called it very early breast cancer or something, because zero almost means it doesn't exist," said Dell.

Also known as ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, stage zero breast cancer has not invaded surrounding tissue or organs.

The cancer can't be detected by a self breast exam, so that's one reason yearly mammograms are important.

"Somewhere between 95 and 100-percent of these people are cured with this diagnosis," said Dr. Elin Sigurdon, Surgical Oncologist.  "For those of us who treat cancer, we rarely get the luxury of finding a curable cancer, and this is a curable cancer, and it's only curable by doing mammograms every year."

Women with a strong family history of breast cancer may choose mastectomy, but more commonly, treatment is a lumpectomy, sometimes followed by radiation.

"So you actually have the luxury of having a cancer you can treat without needing chemotherapy," said Dr. Sigurdon.

"I did not have a fear of dying," said Dell.  "I knew that with proper treatment, my chance of living was 99 to 100-percent."

When needed, treatment for stage zero breast cancer is very successful.  The five-year survival rate is about 100%.