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According to a recent study by the American Cancer Society (ACS), incidence of cancer is decreasing across the country. So is the rate of cancer-related deaths, though it remains the number-two killer in the United States.
For women, the rate of new cancer patients decreased by 0.5 percent, due in large part to drops in colorectal and breast cancer. This is great news, but some have questioned whether it is a bit misleading.
Researchers noted that a drop in the rate of breast cancer could be due to an overall decrease in doctors treating older women with hormonal replacement therapy. However, they also cautioned that the drop might be evidence of an increase in delayed diagnosis of breast cancer, due to fewer women opting for mammograms.
The issue of preventative medicine arose in 2009, when the United States Preventative Services Task Force released the recommendation that younger women reconsider yearly mammograms, due to increases in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) diagnosis and the surgery to remove it.
Considered to be the earliest form of breast cancer, DCIS is defined as an abnormal growth in the breast that is not yet cancerous, but could become so. Though it is not cancer — not yet — DCIS is often treated as if it were, with surgery to remove the growth.
Estimates put the risk of breast cancer in untreated DCIS patients to be about 30 percent and many have complained that the preventative surgery is over-recommended.
Are fewer women being screened because of an unwillingness to consider DCIS? What good is a drop in the statistical incidence of breast cancer if it simply means that more women will face delayed diagnosis of the disease?