Rethinking the word Cancer

We might be afraid of monsters and dark forces, might being COVID positive scares the hell out of us for now and stress (depression and anxiety) might bury us deep into our negative emotions but there is one thing that we don’t want to face no matter what pandemic it is or which condition we are living, and that’s tumor.

The only thing that comes in our mind after hearing the word ‘tumor’ is cancer and death, although baldness, vomiting and depression may kick in afterwards but overall, it scares us, to death. This fear might be a good thing since it helps us to seriously consider this malicious disease but this fear is also the cause of ‘overdiagnosis’ which has mislead our data regarding cancers and caused unnecessary headache to many. Because believe it or not, tumor is not all that deadly folks, we can live with some kind of tumor our entire life without an issue. These kinds of tumors are called Benign Tumors.

In simplest words, tumors are mutated and dysfunctional cells and there are three types of it; Malignant Tumors which are cancerous and spread to other organs causing harm, Premalignant Tumors which have the potential to cause harm and go rouge and at last Benign Tumors which are not cancerous and do not spread to other organs.

Although we generally picture cancer when we hear the word tumor, Benign Tumors are not harmful and many people can carry these their entire lives without any dysfunction. Tumors like Nevi, Moles, Fibromas, Adenomas, Desmoid Tumor, Hemangiomas, Lipomas and Leiomyomas are Benign Tumors and may not be a serious issue. But our screening programs detect these harmless cancers and that follows up with treatment of those types of tumors, which is not needed yet results in overdiagnosis. These overdiagnosis have some issues that are as following;

  • Because of overdiagnosis, people suffer from mental health issues like anxiety.
  • There is a risk of misinformation rises because of lack of understanding of overdiagnosis.
  • By adding harmless cancers to the number of cancers diagnosed, overdiagnosis ensures five-year-survival rates improve, even if just as many people still die from cancer.
  • In this regard, it creates confusion in the data of cancer related reports.
  • It can waste the time and resources of both health professionals and citizens.
  • It can also lead to psychological and behavioral effects of labeling.
  • According to The National Cancer Institute scientists:

Physicians, patients, and the general public must recognize that overdiagnosis is common and occurs more frequently with cancer screening. Overdiagnosis, or identification of indolent cancer, is common in breast, lung, prostate, and thyroid cancer. Whenever screening is used, the fraction of tumors in this category increases.

To eliminate the confusion of deadly cancers with harmless tumors, we need to reconsider the word cancer itself. AS Chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, Otis W. Brawley said:

We need a 21st-century definition of cancer instead of a 19th-century definition of cancer, which is what we’ve been using.

Otis W. Brawley

We have been terrorizing people by the scary concepts of cancer from a long time now and it backfired us quite exquisitely. I would suggest using funny words like Chalamanga or Carrie as alternatives for nonmalignant tumors but it would be hilarious if a doctor comes out with a report saying “You have Chalamanga”. Keeping aside my strange sense of humor, many scientists around the world have given suggestions on renaming cancer with IDLE not because the tumor just idly sits around doing nothing, it refers to Indolent Lesions of Epithelial origin. They further wrote in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) that cancer should only be used for the life-threatening cancers.

Although Chalamanga would still be humorous and stress-releasing, IDLE has the potential to overrule the issues we are facing due to the fear of cancer and overdiagnosis. In some places like Australia, they are taking steps to mitigate the problem and it would be my recommendation to a developing country like Pakistan to consider working on it to make accurate assessment of cancer data and to make the lives of its citizens better and healthy.

Although I had tons of ways to end this article with BOOM, I can’t get over the joke that pops up in my mind that goes like this;

Knock knock,

Who’s there?

It’s Cancer

Cancer whoooooo (dead mentally).

Knock knock,

Who’s there?

It’s IDLE,

IDLE who?

Cancer that won’t kill you….

It’s Jabir… See you around.

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