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Pre-cancerous condition, DCIS, confuses many breast cancer patients

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POSTED: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 11:19pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 12:26am

More than 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in this country, but another 50,000 get a diagnosis that is less clear: when they're told they have a pre-cancerous condition called DCIS.

DCIS starts in the milk ducts. Doctors cannot be sure if it will spread, or if the patient needs to be treated with radiation or mastectomy.

Dorothy Warren is one of those women. After a mammogram, she was told she had DCIS - almost breast cancer, but not quite the same.

Warren said, "You're going to tell me I have cancer and I have stage zero, and it's not real invasive cancer? I was not only fearful, but confused!"

Oncologist Dr. Pamela Otto stated, "There's a percentage that will never go on to develop an invasive cancer, but a certain percentage will go on to develop an invasive cancer."

The findings of a new study, presented at a major breast cancer conference, finds that a genetic test called Oncotype DX can help with decisions about how to treat these cases. It gives a score, indicating how high the risk is.

These results are part of a big movement to try to use genetic markers to tailor the care to each patient.

Experts say only about one quarter of DCIS patients need radiation.

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