IDLE: A kinder, gentler cancer term

A panel of experts convened by the National Cancer Institute suggests calling slow-growing lesions in the breast, prostate, lung and skin by a new name, indolent lesions of epithelial origin, or IDLE, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

Writing in the journal Lancet Oncology, the group notes that new diagnostic technology is finding increasingly smaller abnormalities that are unlikely to prove deadly, but, because labeled cancer, are treated aggressively, resulting in billions of dollars in unnecessary surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy.

According to the article, the group also calls for less routing screening for early cancers and a more tempered approach to those that are found for a better understanding of their natural course.

“People have to get over the concept that early detection saves lives,” Laura Esserman, lead author and director of the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at the University of California, San Francisco, told the WSJ. Although there have been large increases in the early diagnoses of cancer, there has not been a commensurate drop in mortality, suggesting that some cancers being diagnosed would not result in death.

“Cancer isn’t just one disease, so we shouldn’t treat it as if it is,” she told the WSJ.