On July 29, 2013, a working group for the National Cancer Institute (the main government agency for cancer research) published a paper proposing that the term “cancer” be reserved for lesions with a reasonable likelihood of killing the patient if left untreated. Slower growing tumors would be called a different name such as “indolent lesions of epithelial origin” (IDLE). Their justification was that modern medical technology now allows doctors to detect small, slow-growing tumors that likely wouldn’t be fatal. Yet once patients are told they have a cancer, many become frightened and seek unnecessary further tests, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgery.There is a valid policy issue here: one doesn't want to scare patients unnecessarily and cause them to pursue expensive and unneeded treatment. On the other hand, when making such a decision, the government, as the largest payer of medical bills, has a clear conflict of interest.
Hat tip: Instapundit.