Words: "Cancer" or "Weird Cells"
This is an excellent essay from The New York Times about the importance and power of language. The very word "cancer" is terrifying. Although the beginning of the essay describes a woman who receives a diagnosis of Stage O (DCIS or LCIS) breast cancer, stick with it. (I write that sentence because we know that Stage O/pre-cancer isn't quite/isn't really cancer, it is still terrifying. I do think, however, that an essay about cancer would be improved by a beginning about someone who has the real thing).
Anyway, here is the start and then a link. Enjoy.
'Cancer' or 'Weird Cells': Which Sounds Deadlier?
By GINA KOLATA
My friend's mother got terrifying news after she had a mammogram. She had Stage 0 breast cancer. Cancer. That dreadful word. Of course she had to have surgery to get it out of her breast, followed by hormonal therapy.
Or did she?
Though it is impossible to say whether the treatment was necessary in this case, one thing is growing increasingly clear to many researchers: The word "cancer" is out of date, and all too often it can be unnecessarily frightening.
"Cancer" is used, these experts say, for far too many conditions that are very different in their prognoses — from "Stage 0 breast cancer," which may be harmless if left alone, to glioblastomas, brain tumors with a dismal prognosis no matter what treatment is tried.
It is like saying a person has "mental illness" when he or she might have schizophrenia or mild depression or an eating disorder.