More women are being diagnosed with ductal breast cancer due to better detection.
DCIS cancer is non-invasive meaning it is confined completely to one spot.
The challenge more women are facing is how far they need to go with treatment, like radiation, once the cancer is removed.
New testing is sparing many patients treatments they might not need.
Vicki Triplett considered skipping her annual mammogram due to the pandemic, but she ended up going and it changed her life.
“I dragged my feet probably a little longer than I should have,” Triplett said. “But I did make the appointment and as soon as I went in, they told me, you know, we need to get this biopsied as soon as possible.”
It was determined a tiny tumor in Triplett’s breast was cancerous, small and localized. It was stage zero.
“DCIS is the earliest stage of breast cancer. And DCIS stands for ductal carcinoma in situ,” said Dr. Lea Blackwell, a surgical breast oncologist at GenesisCare. “It is a non-invasive breast cancer. Basically, the ducts where the milk travels through in the breast will change. And the cells will overgrow in the ducts, and it will cause a cancerous growth within the ducts.”
Once rarely diagnosed, DCIS now makes up about 20% of breast cancers because it is detected in advanced mammography. With proper treatment, the survival rate for DCIS is almost 100%.
Many of these will stay in the ducts and never become invasive making treatment decisions difficult as patients weight the option of undergoing rounds of radiation they might not need.
Now new risk assessment tools evaluate the chance of recurrence after surgery.
“They have their DCIS removed, then you can use a test like the Prelude DX test to help identify people that will really get benefit from radiation,” Blackwell said. “The problem with DCIS is if it does come back, half of the time it comes back as invasive.”
Blackwell is part of Triplett’s cancer team.
“The new test that they use that I had, it was so clear, I mean, you could see exactly in black and white, how your chance of reoccurrence would go down with you know, with the surgery, and then with the radiation on top of it. So it was possible to make a much better-informed decision,” Triplett said.
In Triplett’s case, adding a round of radiation could lower the chances of the cancer returning so she underwent a month of treatments.
“Ten months after her surgery and she’s completed her radiation and she’s doing fabulous,” Blackwell said.
Now, Triplett is toasting her future.
“If I could just get one woman to go in for that mammogram, because early detection is the key,” Triplett said.