Should we rename some cancers to make them sound less scary?

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    Should we rename some cancers to make them sound less scary?

    A cancer diagnosis is life-changing, yet some tumours pose little threat, meaning some are calling for a new name. The idea is not without risks, says Charles Swanton

    man looking happy in doctor's office

    Reclassifying some conditions as “not cancer” could help conversations with patients

    Hero Images/Getty

    By Charles Swanton

    “You have cancer” is awful to say, worse still to hear – a gut-wrenching first step along a desperately uncertain journey. The subsequent conversation invariably revolves around a plethora of averages, and test results that, while increasingly sophisticated, are far from perfect.

    But should everything we currently call “cancer” have that title? In this week’s BMJ, Laura Esserman argues that breast lumps known as ductal carcinomas in situ (DCIS), which almost never spread and are rarely lethal, should no longer be called cancer. …

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