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An oncologist is urging for ultra-low risk cancers to be renamed 'indolent' to reduce anxiety for patients told they have the disease.
The medic - from the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center in San Francisco - warns the C-word creates 'universal fear' that causes 'unnecessary psychological trauma' when the patient may have a slow-growing tumour with a very low risk of death.
Doctor - Cancer - Diagnosis - Risk - Sufferers
But another doctor argues downplaying a cancer diagnosis runs the risk of sufferers being under-treated, adding it is 'impossible' to predict exactly how a tumour will turn out.
Writing in the BMJ, Dr Laura Esserman - from the Carol Franc department of surgery and radiology - said: 'No medical diagnosis evokes as much universal fear as one with the word "cancer".'
Diagnosis - Everything - Tumours - Cent - Risk
The diagnosis covers everything from tumours with less than a five per cent risk of spreading over the next 20 years to a deadly disease that could take over the body in just 12 months.
'Clearly, a condition that is indolent or rarely metastasises is not a cancer as clinically defined,' Dr Esserman said.
Cancer - Diagnosis - Tests - Enough - Tumours
Although past cancer diagnosis tests were not always accurate enough to determine which tumours were most likely to spread, the technology has come a long way.
But 'we have yet to use them to change how we define cancer', Dr Esserman said.
Risk - Prostate - Cancer - Cent - Patients
She points to 'ultralow risk prostate cancer', where 98 per cent of patients live a decade post-diagnosis if their tumour does not spread.
Dr Esserman also argues improved cancer screening means more early-stage tumours are being identified than ever before.
Carcinoma - Situ - DCIS - Cells - Lining
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) - cancerous cells in the lining of breast ducts - makes up 25 per cent of all tumours detected via screening but 'is rarely, if ever, lethal'.
But patients 'are being rushed...
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