DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) is a form of breast cancer that very rarely progresses to the point where it invades any neighboring tissue or spreads to other parts of the body. DCIS is never life threatening. In fact it is considered to be a precancerous condition.
The most common treatment for DCIS is lumpectomy. In up to 15% of cases where lesions are removed by lumpectomy, breast cancer occurs in the next 10 years. A recent study in San Francisco has uncovered a way to determine, at a molecular level, which women with precancerous DCIS will and which will not develop cancer at a later stage.
This can be enormously important for patients and doctors, not only in helping formulate post lumpectomy treatment or monitoring plans, but also, in most cases, giving the patients some level of confidence that they won’t be facing the challenge again.
As it stands right now, because doctors have not had a way to determine which cases may develop into cancer, standard protocol after a lumpectomy has been treatment with radiation. Many women, because of the unknown, choose to have a radical mastectomy. In a previous post I had talked about the fact that even a mastectomy does not guarantee that there won’t be future breast cancer. With the new ability to determine future changes at the molecular level, many women will be able to confidently sidestep some of the more aggressive treatments.
Bottom line. Catching breast cancer early, as in the case of DCIS, means that life insurance is available sooner and at better rates. With this new testing being able to rule out a future return of breast cancer, underwriters may be able to be even more aggressive in the future.