New cancer recommendations made by a National Cancer Institute (NCI) working group could reduce unnecessary treatment by eliminating the fear factor linked with some early-stage cancers. However, there is a need for diagnostic tests that can recognize whether these early conditions could become life-threatening, states an analyst with research and consulting firm GlobalData.

Redefining Cancer

The NCI scientists recommended that words like cancer, neoplasia, and carcinoma should be removed from premalignant conditions in order to reduce the incidences of over diagnosis and to prevent patients from undergoing irrelevant surgery, radiation, or drug treatment.

“The implementation of this recommendation will help make patients and physicians more comfortable with refraining from unnecessarily treating benign disease,” says Cheryl S. Gradziel, PhD, oncology analyst with GlobalData. “The term cancer and its synonyms are alarming, which leads patients to strongly believe that premalignant conditions such as ductal carcinoma in situ or high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia should be treated aggressively, when this is often not the case.”

As people become more aware and screening for many common cancers increases, more tumors are being treated at early stages. But, those screenings have resulted in more frequent diagnoses of abnormalities that would never become life-threatening, which is what the NCI is trying to minimize by redefining the terms surrounding cancer.

In order to reduce the excessive treatment of low-risk diagnoses, GlobalData’s analyst argues for the importance of investing in tests that could determine early on if a condition will become malignant or not.

“There is ample market opportunity for such tests, and their approval and subsequent adoption will have the greatest impact towards reducing the overdiagnosis and overtreatment of cancers in the US,” says Gradziel.

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