Strength in Numbers dedicated to my late mother Kay

Thousands of breast cancer patients have debilitating surgery ‘needlessly’ for early form of tumours which won’t harm them

  • Thousands of women are diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
  • Around 80 per cent elect for surgery which can involve removal of breasts
  • But new research reveals doctors were ‘over-enthusiastic’ with operations
  • The risk of someone dying from DCIS is broadly same as a healthy woman

Thousands of women are having needless surgery for breast tumours which won’t harm them, researchers have warned.

Debilitating and distressing operations do not improve survival chances for patients with a common form of early breast cancer, a study found. Furthermore, patients with this type of the illness – considered a precursor to a more serious form – are no more likely to die than the general population. The Canadian research involving 108,100 women has prompted experts to warn doctors can be ‘over-enthusiastic’ with surgery.

In the UK, around 4,600 women a year are diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), whereby cells inside some of the milk ducts turn cancerous. About 80 per cent elect to have surgery, which involves either removal of the lump and surrounding tissue or one or both breasts in their entirety. But in the wake of the new research, Dr Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, said it was clear treatment had been excessive.

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