cancer over diagnosis 2


Cancer experts recommend sweeping changes to detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer

Source: The New York Times, Journal of the American Medical Association

Expert advisers have recommended sweeping changes regarding the nation’s definition, detection and treatment of certain types of cancer.

A working group of the National Cancer Institute, consisting of some of the country’s leading cancer researchers, have advocated for a reduction in the reference to certain types of premalignant conditions and lesions as “cancer,” saying that the word “carcinoma” can scare patients prematurely, resulting in their seeking out what might be unneeded or needlessly harmful treatment procedures, many of which come with increased exposure to radiation.

The impetus for these recommended changes includes growing concern among doctors regarding the increase of extreme and disfiguring procedures used to treat these premalignant conditions. Recent changes in technology have resulted in doctors’ ability to identify these “incidentalomas” much more often, and once they are identified, many physicians feel compelled to biopsy, treat and remove them. This leads to a cycle of what some doctors call “overdiagnosis” and“overtreatment.”

Criticism of these changes comes from doctors who are concerned with doctors’ inability to tell which types of tissue and tumors are likely to grow into fatal cancers, and which will fail to progress. Thus, to be safe, many doctors are likely to treat everything as if it will grow aggressive. However, even with this overdiagnosis and overtreatment, there has not been a “commensurate reduction in invasive cancer.”