My August 14th post responds to Scientists Seek to Rein in Diagnosis of Cancer, in which Tara Parker-Pope discusses the recommendations of an NCI panel that some premalignant conditions should be renamed to remove the word "cancer" or "carcinoma." The move was prompted by concerns about patients being over-diagnosed and over-treated, a problem for both Healthy Survivors and public health.
For some people, the issue is money. Increasing the use of tests and treatments helps those on the prescribing/delivering side and hurts patients and insurance companies footing the bill. They object to lobbyists and politicians having any say in determining what's best for patients.
As a Healthy Survivor, I believe the fundamental issue is captured by a Memorial Sloan Kettering oncologist, Dr. Norton: "...doctors do need to focus on better communication with patients about precancerous and cancerous conditions. He...tells patients that even though ductal carcinoma in situ may look like cancer, it will not necessarily act like cancer — just as someone who is “dressed like a criminal” is not actually a criminal until that person breaks the law.
I've devoted much of my writing life to demonstrating how substituting one word or phrase can make a world of difference to patients. Yet I still believe that changing the language cannot replace effective communication.
If dealing with the uncertainty and high stakes of a potentially life-threatening disease that requires life-altering treatment, nothing replaces the time-consuming weighing of risks and benefits for the individual and developing a personalized plan of action.