Medicine 64

When is cancer not cancer? It’s an unexpected question that has stirred the world of cancer treatment in recent years, especially now in prostate cancer. WSJ: A growing number of doctors are supporting a seemingly unconventional position: low-grade prostate cancers that grow very slowly or never should be called cancers or carcinomas. They say this is the reason These words scare menPatients, their families and sometimes their doctors, want more aggressive treatment — with side effects that debilitate men — rather than a carefully monitored wait-and-see approach.

A name change would not be unprecedented. Some other cancers of the thyroid, cervix, and bladder are reclassified, sometimes so that they don’t scare people because they can’t spread. “The word cancer creates a lot of anxiety and fear,” says Dr. Laura Esserman, MD, professor of surgery and radiology and director of the Breast Cancer Center in San Francisco, California — a threat that has been relabeled breast cancer. “Patients think that if I don’t do something tomorrow, this is going to kill me. Actually, that’s not true.”