Is It Time to Change the Name of Low-Risk Tumors?

February 27, 2019

The proposal to remove the word "cancer" from the description of low-risk tumors has resurfaced in a debate recently published in BMJ.

Too many patients with low-risk cancers are undergoing unnecessary diagnostic tests, procedures, and potentially harmful treatments because the terminology around "cancer" generates fear and anxiety, argues proponents for a name change.

Laura Esserman, MD, suggests the medical terminology should be changed for these less serious diseases so that patients feel less anxious, and active surveillance would be easier. She suggests the term "indolent lesion of epithelial origin", or IDLE for short, be used to describe low-risk tumors.

Murali Varma, MBBS, proposes instead to better educate the public about cancer, so that they understand it is an umbrella term associated with many different potential outcomes. Varma says he suggests that patients with the lowest risk cancers could even stop having follow-up and active surveillance.

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