Millions of people who have been treated for cancer with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery over the past several decades did not really have the deadly disease, a new report shows.
The US National Cancer Institute commissioned a report that discovered that overdiagnosis and misdiagnosis are two major reasons that cancer has become such a widespread disease. The government study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
According to the report, breast cancer is more often than not a benign condition such as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Millions of women have been misdiagnosed with breast cancer when in reality they had DCIS and were treated for a condition that could have never caused them health problems. “The practice of oncology in the United States is in need of a host of reforms and initiatives to mitigate the problem of over-diagnosis and overtreatment of cancer.” The group judged that “a number of premalignant conditions, including ductal carcinoma in situ [in women] and high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia [in men] should no longer be called ‘cancer’.”
The study discovered that conventional cancer treatments are a leading cause of cancer and pointed out that “early diagnosis” is a flawed concept because many of the methods used to diagnose cannot differentiate between malignant and benign cancer cells. Therefore, many people who receive this diagnosis will end up developing cancer even though they did not really have the disease when they began the treatment. According to a study published in 2013 in JAMA, “cancers are heterogeneous and can follow multiple paths, not all of which progress to metastases and death, and include indolent disease that causes no harm during the patient’s life.” The article explained that “overdiagnosis is common and occurs more frequently with cancer screening.”
Overdiagnosis refers to the detection by screening of cancers that would not have become apparent to a doctor or produce symptoms detectable to the patient before an individual died of other causes.” Even when tumours are discovered in an early phase and are treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation, the cancer stem cells, which represent a minority subpopulation, are enriched and become more malignant via conventional treatment.
A document titled Second Cancers in Adults released by the American Cancer Society judged that the profitable cancer treatments may be creating more patients than they cure. “Radiation therapy was recognized as a potential cause of cancer many years ago,” the document reads. The explanation offered by the study’s authors is that “the risk of developing a solid tumour after radiation treatment goes up as the dose of radiation increases.”