Elevated levels of anxiety may cause women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the most common form of noninvasive breast cancer, to overestimate their risk of recurrence or dying from breast cancer, suggests a study led by researchers at Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
“Although DCIS typically is a very treatable disease, many women diagnosed with DCIS develop inaccurate risk perceptions,” said Ann Partridge, the study’s lead author and a breast oncologist at Dana-Farber. “This exaggerated sense of risk needs to be addressed, as it may cause women to make poor treatment choices and adversely affect their emotional well-being and subsequent health behaviors.”
The study’s findings will be published online by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute on Feb. 12 and later in a print edition. DCIS is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells within a breast’s milk ducts. The risk of DCIS spreading elsewhere in the body is approximately 1 percent, and the risk of it recurring locally is 1 percent after mastectomy and less than 10 percent after breast-conserving surgery.
Approximately one-fifth of all breast cancers diagnosed in the United States in 2006 were DCIS. The incidence of DCIS in the United States has increased over the past 20 years, a jump that many attribute to the greater use of mammography screening. Partridge said that the growing number of DCIS cases underscores the need to develop a better understanding of how a DCIS diagnosis impacts women’s emotional health.