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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

It’s estimated that this year alone, 252,710 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer (Breastcancer.org).

The majority of those cases are invasive, but approximately 20 percent of them are not. Non-invasive breast cancer is also known as Stage 0, a diagnosis that is debated in some healthcare circles.

Some experts approach Stage 0, or Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS), as a cancer that should be treated immediately, while others recommend a wait-and-see approach for their patients.

Sentara Cancer Network radiologist Dr. Tammy J. Lamb says it’s not something she commonly sees with her patients in the DMV. “They know what they want, what they need, and what they can live with,” she explains.

DCIS represents about a quarter of Dr. Lamb’s breast cancer diagnoses, and she’s as straightforward as possible when delivering the news: “Carcinoma in Situ may never progress into invasive cancer, but the problem is imaging cannot tell the difference, surgery cannot distinguish, but more importantly, the pathology is not yet there.” It’s this lack of predictability about what the cancer will do in the future which fuels debate.

According to Dr. Lamb, that’s why yearly mammograms are so important. “Women in Northern Virginia and D.C. are very educated, so they understand the importance of doing screening studies,” she says. “So we have a nice screening population, which means we’re finding breast cancers earlier and more often.”

As anyone who has ever dealt with cancer knows, finding it and getting that diagnosis early could mean the difference between life and death.

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