Debating 'Stage 0' cancer

Published On: Dec 24 2013 10:44:17 AM EST   Updated On: Oct 10 2013 05:00:00 PM EDT

The medical community is debating the use of the term "Stage 0" cancer when describing abnormal cells with the potential to metastasize.


Priscilla Stegman's family has a history of cancer diagnoses.

"My mother died at 57 of breast cancer. My sister died at 60 of cancer, and my first cousin died at 47 of cancer," said Stegman.

Stegman then received her own diagnosis of Stage 0 breast cancer.

"Zero was still cancer and it's a scary world," she said.

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"It's pre-malignant. Had it been left on its own without treatment, it would have developed into an invasive cancer," said Dr. Archana Maini with Broward Health.

Maini said the term "Stage 0" cancer is being hotly debated within the medical community.

"What they are thinking is cancer word should only be used for something which will eventually have the potential to metastasize and have adverse effects on [the] human body and ultimately be capable of killing the body. We should not use this word for anything less than that," she said.

Alternative terms being considered include breast lesion or abnormal cells.

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that when the word "cancer" was removed from the diagnosis, most patients chose less aggressive treatments. But Maini said even Stage 0 cancer can't be ignored.

"It does require a full fledge of treatment, but the outcome is really, really good," she said. "Those women practically live forever."

Stegman underwent surgery to remove what her doctor called "a speck of dust," followed by radiation treatment. She'll take the cancer drug Tamoxifen for the next five years.

"I'm doing every single thing I can do to prevent it again," said Stegman.


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