Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Head To Head

Should we rename low risk cancers?

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 23 January 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:k4699

Rapid Response:

Turning back the clock

When I qualified in the 1960s a cancer diagnosis was equated with pain, suffering and death. Some taught we should not give this diagnosis to patients. Over the years better understanding and treatments have meant that many patients have a reasonable grasp of the range of cancers. The very inclusion of some of those which are less ominous and the advantages with some of early diagnosis has helped to dispel a lot of old time dread. It seems bizarre that anyone can argue on pseudo-ethical grounds for turning what may be not-so-bad news into essentially fake news for its feel good value. Just what this will mean for those who have "real cancer" in the old sense is unclear but clearly emphasises pessimism for prognosis. I suspect that many older folk - those most at risk of many cancers - no longer put cancer at the top of their list of dreaded diseases, although it may still top the list of for the young and middle aged.

Competing interests: No competing interests

25 January 2019
Simon Kenwright
Rtd Physician