Low-risk cancers should be renamed 'indolent', oncologist urges

Mail Online | 1/24/2019 | Alexandra Thompson Senior Health Reporter For Mailonline
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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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