Objective There have been calls to remove ‘carcinoma’ from terminology for in situ cancers such as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), to reduce overdiagnosis and overtreatment. We investigated the effect of describing DCIS as ‘abnormal cells’ versus ‘pre-invasive breast cancer cells’ on women's concern and treatment preferences.
Setting and participants Community sample of Australian women (n=269) who spoke English as their main language at home.
Design Randomised comparison within a community survey. Women considered a hypothetical scenario involving a diagnosis of DCIS described as either ‘abnormal cells’ (arm A) or ‘pre-invasive breast cancer cells’ (arm B). Within each arm, the initial description was followed by the alternative term and outcomes reassessed.
Results Women in both arms indicated high concern, but still indicated strong initial preferences for watchful waiting (64%). There were no differences in initial concern or preferences by trial arm. However, more women in arm A (‘abnormal cells’ first term) indicated they would feel more concerned if given the alternative term (‘pre-invasive breast cancer cells’) compared to women in arm B who received the terms in the opposite order (67% arm A vs 52% arm B would feel more concerned, p=0.001). More women in arm A also changed their preference towards treatment when the terminology was switched from ‘abnormal cells’ to ‘pre-invasive breast cancer cells’ compared to arm B. In arm A, 18% of women changed their preference to treatment while only 6% changed to watchful waiting (p=0.008). In contrast, there were no significant changes in treatment preference in arm B when the terminology was switched (9% vs 8% changed their stated preference).
Conclusions In a hypothetical scenario, interest in watchful waiting for DCIS was high, and changing terminology impacted women's concern and treatment preferences. Removal of the cancer term from DCIS may assist in efforts towards reducing overtreatment.
- PUBLIC HEALTH
This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.
This web only file has been produced by the BMJ Publishing Group from an electronic file supplied by the author(s) and has not been edited for content.
- Data supplement 1 - Online supplement
- Data supplement 2 - Online supplement
- Data supplement 3 - Online supplement