Cancer definition must be tightened: Scientists

A group of experts advising the nation’s premier cancer research institution has recommended sweeping changes in the approach to cancer detection and treatment

Written by New York Times | New York | Published:July 30, 2013 2:40 am

TARA PARKER-POPE

A group of experts advising the nation’s premier cancer research institution has recommended sweeping changes in the approach to cancer detection and treatment,including changes in the very definition of cancer and eliminating the word entirely from some common diagnoses.

The recommendations,from a working group of National Cancer Institute,were published Monday in Journal of the American Medical Association. They say,for instance,that some premalignant conditions,like one that affects the breast called ductal carcinoma in situ,which many doctors agree is not cancer,should be renamed to exclude the word carcinoma so that patients are less frightened and less likely to seek what may be unneeded and potentially harmful treatments that can include surgical removal of breasts.

The group,which includes some of the top scientists in cancer research,also suggested that many lesions detected during breast,prostate,thyroid,lung and other cancer screenings should not be called cancer at all but instead be reclassified as IDLE conditions,which stands for “indolent lesions of epithelial origin”.

While it is clear that some or all of the changes may not happen for years,if it all,and that some cancer experts will profoundly disagree with the group’s views,the report from such a prominent group of scientists who have the clear backing of the National Cancer Institute brings the discussion to a much higher level.

“We need a 21st-century definition of cancer instead of a 19th century one,” said Dr Otis W Brawley,chief medical officer for American Cancer Society. NYT

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