Risk and Uncertainty in Breast Cancer Diagnosis: Exploring Women's Experiences of DCIS

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 46 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Diane TRUSSON, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
In this paper I will present findings from an ongoing study of women who have been treated for DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ), which is a very early form of non-invasive cancer. In the UK, increasing numbers of women are being diagnosed with DCIS as a result of more efficient and more widespread breast screening. Mammograms are able to detect calcium deposits which are confined to the milk ducts of breasts.  However, at the present time there is uncertainty about the risk of it developing into an invasive cancer. Consequently, DCIS is treated in the same way as invasive breast cancer, which is by surgery to remove either the affected cells (lumpectomy) or the entire breast (mastectomy).

Blaxter (2010) highlights how diagnostic tests are increasingly able to identify potential diseases but in doing so create a dilemma of risks of acting and not-acting. Do women opt for surgery and live with the consequences? Or live with the uncertainty of whether breast cancer may develop?

The women who took part in this study were interviewed after the initial shock of diagnosis and treatment were over. This presented an opportunity to explore complex emotions regarding the decisions they made, including changes to their body which could not be wholly justified as life-saving; but only potentially so.

The study of the complex emotions involved in the experience of DCIS is timely because it relates to ongoing debates in the public arena regarding ‘unnecessary’ breast cancer treatment.  It seems that now, more than ever, there is a need for better information and support for women during and after treatment for DCIS.