After decades of wrongful cancer diagnoses and treatments, and millions harmed, the National Cancer Institute and high gravitas journals like JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) finally admit they were wrong all along.
Back in 2012, The National Cancer Institute convened an expert panel to evaluate the problem of cancer’s misclassification and subsequent overdiagnosis and overtreatment, determining that millions may have been wrongly diagnosed with “cancer” of the breast, prostate, thyroid, and lung, when in fact their conditions were likely harmless, and should have been termed “indolent or benign growths of epithelial origin.” No apology was issued. No major media coverage occurred. And more importantly, no radical change occurred in the conventional practice of cancer diagnosis, prevention, or treatment.
Essentially, in one sleight of the semantic hand, entire swaths of the U.S., and global population, who thought they had “lethal cancer,” and were subsequently treated for it, often with violent procedures and treatments, were being told that“oops… we got that wrong. You never had cancer after all.”
If you look at the problem through just breast cancer overdiagnosis and overtreatment in the U.S. over the past 30 years, it has been estimated that approximately 1.3 million women were wrongly treated. Most of these women still have no idea they were victims, and many have identified with their “aggressors” in Stolkholm syndrome like fashion, because they think their “lives were saved” by unnecessary treatment, when in fact the side effects, both physical and psychological, have almost certainly reduced both the quality and duration of their lives.
When the National Cancer Institute report was released, it was a sort of vindication for those of us who had been advocating the position that a commonly diagnosed form of so-called “early breast cancer” known as ductal carcinoma in situ was in fact not inherently malignant and should not have warranted the conventional treatments of lumpectomy, mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy. I based this position on available research on the natural history of DCIS, and the extremely high survival rates from DCIS, as well as the fact that breast cancer-related mortality had not declined in pace with the expansion of so-called “zero” or “early stage” cancers detected through mammography screenings, as would be expected if these diagnoses actually represented harmful clinical entities.
Since then, I have watched the problem of overdiagnosis and overtreatment closely. I get daily updates from pubmed.gov on the topic, and increasingly, high impact and gravitas journals are reporting on this highly concerning phenomenon. Particularly relevant is a review published late last year, which I reported on in my article titled, “Astounding Number of Medical Procedures Have No Benefit, Even Harm – JAMA Study.”
The JAMA study found that a wide range of standard medical procedures and interventions that millions are subjected to annually, are not evidence-based, as commonly assumed, and have little to no benefit, and may even be causing significant harm. As a result, I now believe that good medicine often involves doing as much as nothing as possible. I also think that people should be aware that any conventional cancer diagnosis has the ability to exert lethal harm via thenocebo effect, regardless of its accuracy (i.e., even a misdiagnosis can result in lethal consequences because the power of belief).
Thyroid Cancer Epidemic Caused by Misinformation, Not Cancer
Another topic I have been trying to spread awareness about is thyroid cancer overdiagnosis and overtreatment. When I first reported on this two years ago in my article, Thyroid Cancer Epidemic Caused by Misinformation, Not Cancer, a series of compelling studies from around the world revealed that the rapid increase in diagnoses in thyroid cancer reflected their misclassification and misdiagnosis. As was the case with screening detected breast and prostate “cancers,” and even many ovarian “cancers,” the standard of care often required the removal of the organ, as well as irradiation and chemotherapy — two interventions known to promote not inhibit cancer.
As is typical of research that undermines the conventional standard of care, there has been little reporting on the topic. That is, until now.
On April 14th 2016, in an article titled “Its Not Cancer: Doctors Reclassify a Thyroid Tumor,” the New York Times reported on a new study published in JAMA Oncology which should forever change the way we classify, diagnosis and treat a common form of “thyroid cancer”:
An international panel of doctors has decided that a type of tumor that was classified as a cancer is not a cancer at all.
As a result, they have officially downgraded the condition, and thousands of patients will be spared removal of their thyroid, treatment with radioactive iodine and regular checkups for the rest of their lives, all to protect against a tumor that was never a threat.
Their conclusion, and the data that led to it, was reported Thursday in the journal JAMA Oncology. The change is expected to affect about 10,000 of the nearly 65,000 thyroid cancer patients a year in the United States. It may also offer grist to those who have been arguing for the reclassification of some other forms of cancer, including certain lesions in the breast and prostate.
The reclassified tumor is a small lump in the thyroid that is completely surrounded by a capsule of fibrous tissue. Its nucleus looks like a cancer but the cells have not broken out of their capsule, and surgery to remove the entire thyroid followed by treatment with radioactive iodine is unnecessary and harmful, the panel said. They have now renamed the tumor. Instead of calling it “encapsulated follicular variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma,” they now call it “noninvasive follicular thyroid neoplasm with papillary-like nuclear features,” or NIFTP. The word “carcinoma” is gone.
Many cancer experts said the reclassification was long overdue. For years there have been calls to downgradesmall lesions in the breast, lung and prostate, among others, and to eliminate the term “cancer” from their name. But other than the renaming of an early stage urinary tract tumor in 1998, and early stage ovarian and cervical lesions more than two decades ago, no group other than the thyroid specialists has yet taken the plunge.
In fact, said Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, the name changes that occurred went in the opposite direction, scientific evidence to the contrary. Premalignant tiny lumps in the breast became known as stage zero cancer. Small and early-stage prostate lesions were called cancerous tumors. Meanwhile, imaging with ultrasound, M.R.I.’s and C.T. scans find more and more of these tiny “cancers,”especially thyroid nodules.
“If it’s not a cancer, let’s not call it a cancer,” said Dr. John C. Morris, president-elect of the American Thyroid Association and a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Morris was not a member of the renaming panel.
Dr. Barnett S. Kramer, director of the division of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute, said, “There’s a growing concern that many of the terms we use don’t match our understanding of the biology of cancer.” Calling lesions cancer when they are not leads to unnecessary and harmful treatment, he said.
The article goes on to discuss the fact that, while some major medical centers are starting to treat encapsulated thyroid tumors less aggressively, this is still not the norm in the rest of the country. It is a consistent pattern that there is a lag of over a decade between changes in evidence and the clinical practice of medicine, which therefore makes medical practice far less “evidence-based” than is commonly claimed and/or assumed.
Clearly, the truth about cancer’s true nature, and the cancer industry’s misrepresentations, is beginning to come to light via the very institutions like JAMA and the major media who have been responsible, historically, for generating so many commonly held misconceptions on the topic.