According to a report in the Guardian, Australian and US researchers have suggested that the word cancer should be dropped from some diagnoses as they frighten folks into unnecessary treatments beyond their condition.
“The use of more medicalised labels can increase both concern about illness and desire for more invasive treatment,” the analysis said.
“For decades cancer has been associated with death. This association has been ingrained in society with public health messaging that cancer screening saves lives. This promotion has been used with the best of intentions, but in part deployed to induce feelings of fear and vulnerability in the population and then offer hope through screening.
“Although the label needs to be biologically accurate, it also needs to be something patients can understand and that will not induce disproportionate concern.”
The analysis was led by Brooke Nickel from the University of Sydney. Researchers from Bond University in Queensland and the Mayo Clinic in the US also contributed.
A prime example of the negative impact of using the word cancer was seen in low risk papillary thyroid cancer, Nickel said.
“Studies show that progression to clinical disease and tumour growth in patients with small papillary thyroid cancer who choose surgery are comparable to those who monitor their condition,” she said.
“While active surveillance is increasingly being recognised as a safe management option for some patients with cancer, there is still a strong belief that aggressive treatments are always needed,” a co-author of the study, Prof Kirsten McCaffery, said.
Cancer Council Australia’s CEO, Prof Sanchia Aranda, said: “We would support the authors’ call for a global round table to agree on the literature, and what the best term for some of these conditions should be,”
“It was assumed when these lesions were first able to be diagnosed that they would all become invasive cancers,” Aranda adds.
“It’s becoming clearer that they won’t. For every woman helped with prevention with a DCIS removal, more women will have had unnecessary surgery.
“Mammography is detecting smaller and smaller lesions, which has outstripped our ability to know what they will become and what to do with them.”
By Kelvin Tan, Editor for Men’s Health Singapore