Mammograms have been around for 30 years. Thirty years of knowing about and actively fighting with lesions and other similar inconveniences within women’s breasts have led us to an uncertain present: should we treat these inconveniences or, if we should, how do we do it? A rather disappointing conclusion, not only for the world, but for women who have to face issues like these on a daily basis.
We are talking about cancer, or are we? It seems quite surprising how more than 30 years of research have failed to come up with a proper response as to how we should deal with these tiny sprinklings of cells that should not be there, cells that are often referred to as “”stage 0 cancer” and which some scientists do not even consider to be cancer in the first place.
To add more fuel to the fire, the paper that was published in JAMA Oncology last Thursday gave insight that the type of treatment women chose in order to deal with cancer did not make much difference. The study had the aim of analyzing 100,000 women over 20 years so that it could be established what treatment is more beneficial and why.
After having analyzed all these women, after all this time, scientists only managed to discover that the death rate from breast cancer was not affected by the choice of treatment and that the lifetime risk was approximately the same as in the general population: 3.3 percent.
There were two major indicators that scientists could pin-point exactly. First of all, women who had mastectomies had their breast cut, so they should have had a lower death rate than the women who had undergone lumpectomies and left the D.C.I.S. cells in their bodies.
Secondly, while thousands of D.C.I.S. cases were reported and aggressively treated each year, the invasive breast cancer incidence was almost unaffected. The treatment of D.C.I.S. was supposed to eliminate invasive breast cancer, so the incidence of invasive breast cancer should have gone down drastically, which is not what happened.
These factors led us to the next question: what is D.C.I.S.? If it is not cancer, is it a risk factor that can trigger cancer? Is it precancer? It is a question to which we do not have an answer today.
The situation is also forcing us, as human beings, to cope with a truth that is hard to accept: for the time being, even with the amount of research and dedication put into “solving” cancer, this disease remains beyond our comprehension. Only time will help us understand how we can defeat it.
Photo Credits flickr.com