Did I Really Have Cancer?


Recently I learned that I did not have breast cancer – after going through radiation and a bilateral mastectomy, as if I did.  What I had was stage 0 cancer, or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).  Which, I just found out, means abnormal cells in the milk duct that have not spread.  Not cancer. So for eight years I have been telling people I am a breast cancer survivor – erroneously, as it turns out.  I’m a victim – survivor? – of the scary conscientiousness – or the over-prescribing of treatment  – that women are being subjected to.

Call it fear of malpractice (what if it turns into cancer?), or what we’re now learning, that DCIS becomes invasive cancer 25 to 50% of the time, if not treated, but more and more women are undergoing drastic medical treatment even before they have the illness.  Am I sorry?  No way.  At the time I was diagnosed, I had a three-year-old.  When it was found again in my breast, he was five.  I wanted to live.  But that still gave me a bit of a shiver when I read recently that DCIS is not cancer, but simply a risk factor.

So, should we or shouldn’t we have this aggressive treatment?  Should we have mammograms, when their value has become open to question?  It’s up to every woman to decide for herself.  For me, it wound up being an easy decision.  I want to be here for my son.   

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