Attention Women: Ways To Avoid Breast Cancer Diagnosis Mistakes - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Attention Women: Ways To Avoid Breast Cancer Diagnosis Mistakes

MSNBC.COM - Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the precursor to breast cancer, is identified much more often today, thanks to advances in imaging technology. But getting this diagnosis exactly right remains difficult. It's not always easy for even expert pathologists to differentiate between normal cells and the tiny precancerous cells that may cluster in a woman's milk ducts. These noninvasive cells represent such an early warning of cancer that they are known as stage zero.

That's why, as an article on the front page of The New York Times reported yesterday, too often, women mistakenly diagnosed with DCIS have undergone disfiguring surgery and radiation to treat a cancer they never actually had.

So what's the take-away message for women who want to avoid similar mistakes?

Understand that it can be challenging, even for experts in breast pathology, to get a DCIS diagnosis precisely correct. Cancer develops along a continuum that stretches from normal cells to aggressively invasive cells. "It's not like you're crossing a railroad track and the bar is either down or it's not," says Dr. Charles Loprinzi, professor of breast-cancer research and a coauthor of the Mayo Clinic Guide to Women's Cancers. "There are shades of gray."

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