A Different Word and I Wouldn't Have Needed Radical Surgery

Big surprise.  Doctors are only now finding out that if they don't use the word "cancer" in a diagnosis, women are far more likely to opt for watchful waiting and medication than surgery.

That's because recently medical boards have been talking about taking the word out of a common diagnosis for women with noninvasive breast cancer, or ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).  It's the word carcinoma that makes us sit up and freak, and it was the word used when I was diagnosed, so I went through treatment to the max.

I wrote about this recently when I first heard about it.  I was diagnosed with stage 0 precancerous breast cancer but I was treated as if I had full-blown invasive cancer.  Nine years ago, that's the way it was done. To be fair, my cancer or abnormal cells or whatever they were, were grade 3, right on the edge of becoming invasive cancer, so decisions were made based  mostly on that. There was no doubt that if I didn't have treatment, in time I would have had invasive breast cancer. But the fact remains -- it was precancer and though I was told that -- advice from all doctors was to treat it as cancer.

But a new study has found that when women were given the same diagnosis with the word "cancer" or "carcinoma" in it, 53% opted against surgical treatment, anyway, but 66% chose not to do it when the word used instead was "lesion" or "abnormal cells."

The normal procedure for DCIS is a lumpectomy, where the lesion is removed and the skin around it to form a margin of noncancerous skin, and radiation.  I had both.  When a second spot that had been on my original mammogram was finally looked at, two years later, it, too, was found to be abnormal cells (not cancer).  But at that point -- and at that time, it was the M.O. -- I was forced to have radical surgery.

“We conclude that the terminology used to describe DCIS has a significant and important impact on patients’ perceptions of treatment alternatives. Health care providers who use ‘cancer’ to describe DCIS must be particularly assiduous in ensuring that patients understand the important distinctions between DCIS and invasive cancer,” the study concludes, as newswise.com reports.

I said it before and I'll say it again.  I feel gypped.  While I'm very glad not to have had "cancer," I'm angry that I no longer have the body I once did, and for what?  Because of a word?


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