Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Patients, Doctors Overrate DCIS Risk

Ductal Carcinoma in Situ: High Anxiety Over Small Risk of Invasive Breast Cancer
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 12, 2008 -- Far too many women successfully treated for DCIS -- an early, noninvasive breast cancer -- suffer from greatly overrating their risk of getting deadly cancer.

Despite DCIS treatment, 39% of patients think that in the next five years they have at least a 25% to 35% chance of invasive breast cancer. More than half of these patients fear their lifetime risk is this large. Yet experts put the real risk at less than 10% after breast-conserving surgery and 1% after mastectomy.

"Most strikingly, we find that a substantial minority of patients -- 28% -- harbor inaccurate, heightened perceptions of the risks they face with regard to future breast cancer spreading to other places in their bodies," says Ann Partridge, MD, MPH. Her team looked at women's breast cancer fears after DCIS treatment.

The true risk of this happening is less than 1%, says Partridge, a medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Partridge and colleagues gathered data from 487 women at the time of their DCIS treatment and at nine and 18 months later.

"Some women are paralyzed by their diagnosis of DCIS," Partridge says. "In another study, where we actually compared the risk perceptions of women with DCIS to those with invasive cancer, they had a very similar perception of their risk of dying. But of course women with invasive cancer have a much, much higher risk."

What has women so frightened? Part of the answer is that a common treatment for DCIS -- partial or full removal of the breast -- is so drastic. And part of it is doctor-patient communication.

"Anxiety is the biggest predictor of inaccurate risk perception," Partridge says. "For most of these women, we think it is a combination of not clearly hearing what the doctor says and not getting clear information from the doctor."

Doctors may not be clear because they don't fully understand DCIS. Where facts are few, fears flourish.

In a study presented to the 2005 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, Partridge and colleagues found that different doctors hold very different ideas about even the most basic DCIS facts.

For example, Partridge's team found that while 40% of doctors "always" refer to DCIS as cancer, 22% of doctors "never" or "almost never" call DCIS cancer. And while 63% of doctors rate DCIS as a "1" or "2" on a 5-point risk scale, 36% rate this risk as a "3" or "4."

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow