Slow Growing Prostate Cancer Is Still Cancer

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At the NIH State-of-the-Science Conference a few weeks ago, an independent panel advised that active surveillance is appropriate for patients presenting low-grade, low-volume prostate cancer and recommended the removal of the terminology ‘cancer’ by physicians when discussing courses of action. While active surveillance for these patients unarguably has many merits, Drs. Bruce Chabner and Matthew Smith of Massachusetts General Hospital expressed their concerns for the suggested change in nomenclature in an editorial in The Oncologist.

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At the NIH State-of-the-Science Conference a few weeks ago, an independent panel advised that active surveillance is appropriate for patients presenting low-grade, low-volume prostate cancer and recommended the removal of the terminology ‘cancer’ by physicians when discussing courses of action. While active surveillance for these patients unarguably has many merits, Drs. Bruce Chabner and Matthew Smith of Massachusetts General Hospital expressed their concerns for the suggested change in nomenclature in an editorial in The Oncologist.

The panel recommended removing the term “cancer” for patients with this early stage/low volume disease to alleviate much of the anxiety that goes along with the term. While prostate cancer typically progresses slowly in these patients and they are unlikely to experience morbidity or mortality as a result of their condition, the pathology is still consistent with the diagnosis of cancer.

Dr. Chabner stated, "I am concerned about the rush to change the perception of prostate cancer. While it is certain that we unnecessarily treat or over-treat elderly patients with low grade disease, prostate cancer, like other cancers, has the potential to kill. We are not yet sufficiently knowledgeable to know precisely which patients will progress and in which patients the disease will remain stagnant. That uncertainty needs to be communicated to our patients as we discuss screening and treatment. Changing the name will simply confuse the issue."

The full editorial title “Call It Cancer” can be accessed at: http://theoncologist.alphamedpress.org/content/early/2012/02/01/theoncologist.2012-0004.full.pdf+html

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Sharon Lee
AlphaMed Press
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