Letter to the editor: Still working to understand cancer

Diana Zuckerman, PhD
August 5, 2013

Originally published in The Washington Post

The Post article on the overdiagnosis of cancer clearly reported the need to reduce patients’ fear and confusion about “cancers” that many experts now agree are not really cancer, because they don’t spread and aren’t harmful [“Panel addresses overdiagnosis of cancer,” news, July 30]. The major obstacle has been uncertainty about how likely these conditions are to predict cancer or change into an invasive cancer in the future. That is part of the reason many patients are choosing overtreatment, such as bilateral mastectomies that are not recommended and are not medically necessary.

In 2003, our center brought together nationally respected experts to the National Cancer Institute to address these issues. There were substantial disagreements, but for the sake of women across the country, none of us gave up. Let’s hope we make more progress in the coming months and years than we have in the past decade.