A new breast cancer diagnosis may provoke many questions. As baby boomers age, the possibility of cancer increases. Gen Xers and millennials may also wonder about their risks, especially if breast cancer runs in the family.
Receiving a diagnosis of “stage zero” breast cancer may be baffling. What is stage zero? Is it as dangerous as other stages? What can be done to prevent it? Are any treatment options available for this stage? All of these questions are important and valid. Researching the facts and becoming proactive in recovery will help patients, researchers, and doctors alike fight cancer.
If you or a family member have recently been diagnosed, you are probably still reeling from the news. Having a stage that most people are not familiar with can lead to even more confusion.
What is stage zero breast cancer?
Stage zero is the stage before stage one. It is when the cancer cells are limited to the breast ducts. Specifically, the lining of the breast milk duct will have abnormal cells. In this stage, the cancerous cells have not spread to nearby tissues or other organs in the body. This phenomenon is similar to other cancer cells in the body. Those cells can be targeted by cryotherapy to remove them. Despite limited awareness, these cells are quite common. In fact, it accounts for more than 60,000 cases a year.
Zero state cancer happens whenever there is a cell in the body that is growing. In later stages, cancer will spread to other parts. If left untreated, cancer may engulf the entire body. Luckily, there is early detection available. If caught early, stage zero breast cancer has a ninety-five percent survival rate at the ten-year mark. In the case of stage zero cancer, forty to fifty percent of cases move on to stage one. This means you have about a fifty percent chance of beating the disease at this stage. Every day, researchers are coming up with new techniques for detection of cancer. If it is caught early, there is also another advantage. Sometimes, less aggressive treatment options can be used. This will make treatment easier, as these treatments may allow for a greater quality of life.
New research and studies are coming up with new methods of detecting cancer early. New techniques attempt to assess the probability of cancer occurring in the individual. Familial history is important as a risk factor. Many patients with zero stage breast cancer catch their cancer early, due to being proactive about their genetic history. A good indicator of breast cancer in your gene pool is your mother or grandmother having cancer. Some preemptive options exist, like a mastectomy. It is a personal choice to decide if that is the right move, and of course can also pose other risks to your health. Beyond familial risk, there is checking for symptoms on a regular basis. The hard part is noticing the symptoms. In some cases, the symptoms go completely unnoticed until a later stage. Give yourself a regular breast exam monthly. If you notice any bleeding or lumps, report it to your doctor. If you are younger, you may not have regular mammograms. Therefore, someone that is twenty-five or thirty may not know if they have stage zero cancer. Therefore, younger patients should be extra vigilant. Testing is also not an exact science. Some tests can produce a false positive.
The impact of early detection
Patient outcomes are improving with early detection. The goal for most women is to prevent getting cancer altogether. There is no perfect formula, but there are several ways to limit the risk. Moderating diet and exercising can limit the chances of breast cancer. Limiting alcohol consumption and quitting smoking will also decrease the risk. There is some evidence that antioxidants will decrease the chances of cancer.
There is a lot of progress with cancer research. In the case of zero stage breast cancer, the best prognosis may be to stop it at its source. In this sense, stem cell research shows a lot of promise. If the cancer cells can be isolated, they can be destroyed. Replacing them with functional cells can stop reoccurrences. Although the science on this is still new, this could even lead to a cure. Dealing with genetic factors is also important for a cure. For a cure, scientists need to better understand the mutations. If the genes are isolated, the cause of the mutations can be found. Then, biomarkers or other tools can stop the mutation. Eventually, scientists may even be able to engineer the mutation out of the gene. This could stop it from being passed from generation to generation. There is still a long way to go on this research, but it can provide hope during a challenging time.
Things to keep in mind
Currently, there have not been any studies conducted that prove that women diagnosed and treated for stage zero breast cancer are less likely to die than those who do not get treated. Some doctors may question recommended treatments for stage zero cancer. Future data in this area will help women and their doctors make more informed decisions about appropriate breast cancer treatment.
Remember to be diligent about your health. Lowering risk factors will decrease the chances of breast cancer, whether diagnosis is stage zero or stage four. Research to understand your results and potential treatments if needed. There are many resources out there for support, and a strong attitude will help through each part of the process.
Before you decide on cancer treatment, go through all options available. Get a second or third opinion. Learn about each side of your situation before deciding the future of your health. Remember that each instance of breast cancer is unique, and that there may not be such a thing as one-size-fits-all treatment. When it comes to stage zero breast cancer, it may not be beneficial to treat it the same way stage four cancer would be treated. Be sure to speak with your doctor extensively to come to a conclusion about what’s right for you.
Said, M. (2017, July 18). What Is Stage-Zero Breast Cancer? Retrieved August 03, 2017, from http://www.marieclaire.com/health-fitness/features/a28170/stage-zero-breast-cancer/