New research from Amsterdam shows that women over the age of 50 who have been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ have a higher chance of being alive ten years after their diagnosis than women in the general population, according to Science Daily. Ductal carcinoma in situ is considered a disease separate from breast cancer because it is at stage 0 and does not spread around the body. However, ductal carcinoma in situ can progress into full-blown breast cancer, which is why it is still treated with surgery or surgery in combination with radiation therapy.

The researcher Dr. Lotte Elshof presented findings at the European Cancer Congress 2017. Women who have been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ should feel better about their future because of these findings, which show their longevity will not be impacted by this condition.

Dr. Jelle Wesseling and her team at the Netherlands Cancer Institute followed approximately 10,000 Dutch women with ductal carcinoma in situ between the years 1989 and 2004. The women were followed for an average of 10 years and their longevity was compared to the mortality within the general population.

Women who are 50 years old and older were found to have a 10 percent lower risk of death compared to any mortality risk among women in the general population. The results from the research also shows that, after 10 years, women diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ had a 2.5 percent risk of breast cancer death. The rate went up to 4 percent 15 years after the initial diagnosis.

Nonetheless, these subjects were less likely to die from diseases related to circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems as well as other cancers. These type of findings are intriguing when considering that radiotherapy is used to treat ductal carcinoma in situ and the treatment often has side effects that may damage nearby organs.

“Ductal carcinoma in situ can be a worrying and confusing diagnosis for many women, especially due to the word ‘carcinoma’. Although it should be considered as being clearly different from breast cancer, it can progress into breast cancer, even after removal of the entire breast or after breast conserving therapy consisting of surgery, generally combined with radiation therapy,” said Professor Philip Poortmans, President-elect of ECCO and head of the Radiation Oncology Department at Radboud university medical center.

“Moreover, those treatments can have side-effects, including on the heart. This research provides reassurance for women diagnosed with DCIS because it shows that they are as likely to be alive ten years after the diagnosis as people in the general population who did not have DCIS. This is also reassuring with regards to the potential risks of side-effects.”

The researchers are looking to expand their investigation through an international collaboration in the United States and the UK. The scientists will be looking to see why certain cases progress into more invasive cancers while others remain cancer-free.

“Being diagnosed with DCIS can be extremely distressing, and research indicates that many women overestimate the risks involved and are confused about treatment. This study should provide reassurance that a diagnosis of DCIS does not raise the risk of dying,” Dr. Lotte Elshof, research physician and epidemiologist at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, told the news source.

“It might seem surprising that this group of women actually has a lower mortality rate than the general population. However, the vast majority would have been diagnosed via breast screening, which suggests they may be health-conscious and well enough to participate in screening.”

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