New York-- Few things are as frightening for a patient to
hear from a doctor as the word "cancer," but on Monday, a panel of
experts advising the National Cancer Institute proposed changing the
definition of cancer, eliminating it entirely for some illnesses.
no question that screening for cancer has saved a lot of lives. The
problem is that it's also picked up a lot of abnormalities that may
never have caused any problem.
The authors gave two
examples. One is a breast biopsy lesion called DCIS, or ductal carcinoma
in situ -- stage 0 breast cancer. By itself, it doesn't harm a woman,
but in some cases it goes on to invasive breast cancer. They want to get
rid of the word "carcinoma."
there is an abnormal prostate biopsy called high grade PIN, which is a
kind of a neoplasia, or an abnormal tissue growth. Sometimes it goes on
to prostate cancer; sometimes it doesn't. But in the vast majority of
men, even if you go on to get prostate cancer, it doesn't kill, so they
want to get rid of the word neoplasia.
"cancer," "neoplasia" and "carcinoma" are very charged words, and people
hear that they have it and they want to get it out of them. But
sometimes the treatment can have bad side effects; for example, in
prostate cancer, surgery and radiation can cause problems including
We need better molecular techniques
to figure out which of those abnormalities that we find on screenings
are going to kill us and which ones will never do anything. Until then,
one of the points of this is people need to get used to the possibility
that doctors, if you do have an abnormality, may treat it aggressively,
somewhere in the middle or they may say, "Let's just do nothing and
watch and wait and see what happens."
Click on CBS News for more.