Stage 0 – Pre-breast cancer

Stage 0 breast cancer is a non-invasive cancer where abnormal cells have been found in the lining of the breast milk duct or within the lobules. In Stage 0 breast cancer, the abnormal cells have not spread outside of the ducts or lobules into the surrounding breast tissue. Treatments are aimed at preventing the tumour’s growth and spread, and prognosis for this stage of breast cancer is very good.

Types of Stage 0 breast cancer

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

Abnormal cells contained within the milk ducts of the breast (ducts carry milk from through the breast to the nipple). DCIS is non-invasive, but without treatment, the abnormal cells could turn into invasive cancer over time. About 1200 women are diagnosed with DCIS each year in Australia, but they will not die unless it develops into an invasive breast cancer. DCIS typically doesn’t have any symptoms so it is usually found by a routine mammogram rather than feeling a lump or change in the breast. At this time, health care providers cannot predict which cases of DCIS will progress to invasive breast cancer and which will not. Because DCIS might turn into invasive breast cancer, almost every case of DCIS is treated.

Treatment: The treatment for DCIS aims to prevent it developing into an invasive tumour so surgery to remove the tumour may be a lumpectomy or mastectomy depending on how far the DCIS is spread throughout the milk ducts. Following a lumpectomy radiation is usually required to remove all traces of the tumour and prevent recurrence and spread. Depending on the pathologist’s report on the molecular type of tumour and its hormone receptor status, treatment may also include hormone therapy for five years or longer.

Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)

Abnormal cells contained within the lobules of the breast (the glands where milk is produced). As it does not spread to other parts of the breast or body women cannot die from LCIS.

Treatment: LCIS does not need to be treated if there are no other abnormal changes to the breast, however, having LCIS increases the risk of getting breast cancer and these women should be more closely monitored.

How research is helping

  • The National Breast Cancer Foundation is funding a team led by biomedical engineer Dr Brendan Kennedy from the University of Western Australia to develop the world’s first 3D printed finger-mounted optical imaging probe – a ‘smart surgical glove’ that aims to ensure the entire tumour is removed during initial surgery, avoiding further operations. Read more here.
  • An Australian research program is the world’s only analytical study that will identify the true impact of 3D-mammography screening and whether it will improve outcomes for women. The evidence from this research project led by Professor Nehmat Houssami from the University of Sydney will prompt decisions on whether 3D mammography should be adopted as a primary screening strategy in Australia and globally. Read more here. 

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