A group of researchers from the National Cancer Institute has recommended changing the definition of cancer by eliminating the word from several common pre-malignant conditions, The New York Times reports. The redefinition is part of an effort by top cancer researchers around the country to change the nation’s approach to cancer detection and treatment and to avoid unnecessary medical procedures. For example, experts are suggesting that many breast, prostate, thyroid and lung lesions detected during routine screenings be reclassified as “indolent lesions of epithelial origin” (IDLE) conditions, not cancer. This would make patients less frightened of their diagnoses and less likely to undergo potentially harmful surgeries (such as the unnecessary removal of a breast or the removal of lesions that are so slow growing they are unlikely to ever cause harm). Cancer researchers say the decision has been prompted, in part, by the advent of highly sensitive screening technologies during medical scans, which have increased the likelihood of finding these IDLE conditions, and which lead to what is often referred to as “overtreatment” in the medical community. The scientists also warned against the cumulative radiation risk of repeat scans for malignancies that may not actually pose any real threat.

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