Problems with DCIS Diagnosis

The good news today is that early detection of cancer is saving more and more lives. The majority of cancers found in the earliest stages can be treated and patients never face a recurrence. Unfortunately, early detection is also causing problems.

The New York Times reports today disturbing news that the earliest steps to find breast cancer are prone to error. Patient Monica Long had been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ or D.C.I.S. in 2007 through a needle biopsy, considered the gold standard for identifying cancer. Ms. Long, a nurse, had extensive surgery and radiation. Now her new oncologist is certain that she never had the disease.

According to a study of breast cancer cases by The New York Times, “As it turns out, diagnosing the earliest stage of breast cancer can be surprisingly difficult, prone to both outright error and case-by-case disagreement over whether a cluster of cells is benign or malignant.” Pathologists are faced with smaller and smaller breast lesions and “Discerning the difference between some benign lesions and early stage breast cancer is a particularly challenging…”

Due to concern that 17% of D.C.I.S. cases identified by needle biopsy are misdiagnosed the federal government is financing a nationwide study. In 2006, Susan G Komen for the Cure, an influential breast cancer survivors’ organization, released a startling study. It estimated that in 90,000 cases, women who receive a diagnosis of D.C.I.S. or invasive breast cancer either did not have the disease or their pathologist made another error that resulted in incorrect treatment.

Read The New York Times article here:…