Experts Urge Removal of “Cancer” Label from Many Common Diagnoses

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
(AP Graphics)

The American healthcare system needs a new definition for cancer, according to a panel of medical experts, who argue that too many common diagnoses have been unnecessarily labeled with the “C” word.


A working group of the National Cancer Institute wrote in an article published by The Journal of the American Medical Association that doctors should stop calling some premalignant conditions “cancer,” such as the one that affects the breast called ductal carcinoma in situ.


The word carcinoma should not apply to this condition and others, they argued, because too many patients become frightened by the diagnosis and have treatments that aren’t needed and do more harm than good, such as mastectomies.


Many lesions detected during breast, prostate, thyroid, lung and other cancer screenings should not be called cancer at all, but should instead be reclassified as IDLE conditions, which stands for “indolent lesions of epithelial origin,” according to the panel.


The suggestions are expected to spark a vigorous debate within the medical community, as some cancer experts disagree with the group’s views. But many others welcomed the recommendations.


“We need a 21st-century definition of cancer instead of a 19th-century definition of cancer, which is what we’ve been using,” Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, who was not directly involved in the report, told The New York Times.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Scientists Seek to Rein In Diagnoses of Cancer (by Tara Parker-Pope, New York Times)

Overdiagnosis and Overtreatment in Cancer: An Opportunity for Improvement (by Laura J. Esserman, MD, MBA, Ian M. Thompson, Jr, MD, and Brian Reid, MD, PhD; Journal of the American Medical Association)

After 30 Years Of Cancer Overdiagnosis, Scientists Are Calling For A Redefinition Of The Disease (by Anoopa Singh, Medical Daily)

President’s Cancer Panel: Cancer Caused by Contaminants “Grossly Underestimated” (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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