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Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 31, 2013 at 11:41 AM

Refining the definition of cancer

Institute is moving in the right direction

Dr. Claudia Henschke, right, and CT Supervisor Gus Daphnis prepare Patricia Dowds for her lung scan at New York Hospital - Cornell Medical Center. For the first time, government advisers are recommending screening for lung cancer, saying certain current and former smokers should get annual scans to cut their chances of dying of the disease. [AP Photo/Richard Drew.]

Dr. Claudia Henschke, right, and CT Supervisor Gus Daphnis prepare Patricia Dowds for her lung scan at New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center. For the first time, government advisers are recommending screening for lung cancer, saying certain current and former smokers should get annual scans to cut their chances of dying of the disease. [AP Photo/Richard Drew.]

Congratulations to the scientists at the National Cancer Institute for taking a bold step in redefining how we diagnose cancer [“Scientists see harm in overly broad definition of cancer,” News, July 30.]

By redefining terms, we are forever changing the way we diagnose and treat a variety of conditions, and it reminds us that nothing is more important in health care than a correct diagnosis and treatment plan.

Just think about the unnecessary suffering that can be prevented, not to mention the billions we waste for unnecessary treatments.

Earlier this year, the National Coalition on Health Care and Best Doctors released stunning findings from a survey of cancer specialists that found that misdiagnosis in cancer was greatly underestimated, and that there is a pressing need for systemic changes to reduce misdiagnoses from 15 to 28 percent in all medical cases, down to something much closer to zero.

With well-meaning but overburdened doctors only able to spare a few minutes with each patient, fractured medical information and patients hesitant to ask questions or seek a second opinion, the problem is only expected to get worse, unless we continue to take bold steps such as those taken by the National Cancer Institute.

David Seligman, chairman and CEO, Best Doctors, Boston

0 Comments | More in Health care | Topics: cancer, definition, diagnosis

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