A new study that tracked around 100,000 cases has found that aggressive interventions to treat the earliest stage of the cancers have no effect on whether a woman is alive a decade later.
According to the researchers, the overall risk of dying after being diagnosed with early cancer lesions was 3.3% over two decades, and that pursuing treatment beyond a lumpectomy did not affect survival.
The study adds to concerns that the ability to identify these lesions through mammograms may be leading to unnecessary mastectomies.
Women with these noninvasive cancers face a frightening array of options. Most of the women undergo a lumpectomy to remove the abnormal cells.
But the study found that adding radiation to a lumpectomy did not increase survival rates. Also, there was no difference in the survival rates between women with comparable tumours who had a mastectomy and those who had a less-invasive lumpectomy.
"Many women have a visceral and immediate response: 'Get rid of my breasts.' That's really what's happening in the last 20 years .... We have created a culture of breast cancer awareness, and we've created a countercultural response to fear. When you do a mastectomy, you reduce the fear greatly," said Steven Narod, a senior scientist at the Women's College Research Institute in Toronto who led the study.
The study gets the immediate attention of the oncologists across the world. They also point out its limitations. They said that they would not change clinical practice based solely on the findings.
The findings were published in the journal JAMA Oncology.