My recent posts discuss the trouble with the adjective "rare" when talking about types of cancer. What's a researcher, clinician or patient to do?
Good news for Healthy Survivors! Now, along with ultra-strong hairsprays and ultra-rich ice-creams, we have:
According to a recent article in Oncology Times, an ultra-rare cancer would have at least one of the following features:
- low incidence (fewer than 100,000 cases/yr)
- the cancer is one element of an inherited syndrome
- the cancer is a variant of a common cancer, characterized by
- genetic or cytogenetic abnormalities
- specific biological behavior different from the typical behavior
- being confined to a specific demographic, ethnic group, clinical setting, or cause other than smoking
The term "rare cancer" encourages clinicians and researchers to be increasingly specific about the diagnosis and treatment.
For example, the term "breast cancer" encompasses many different types of breast cancer, each of which behaves in a specific way and responds to specific treatments. So while "breast cancer" is common, a patient with a specific type of breast cancer that occurs only occasionally has a rare cancer. And knowledge about this particular "rare" cancer is the best way to help this and future patients.
In my next post I'll discuss why the term "rare cancer" gives me hope as a Healthy Survivor.