This has come up several times in the different message boards I have participated in over the years: Do we have cancer, or not? (Please note: the factual information in paragraph 3 was gathered for this article – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19472396?dopt=Abstract – The opinions expressed throughout, however are my own. Please feel free to leave comments with your take on this subject!)
When you look up the word “Neoplasm” on the internet (an activity during which extreme caution should ALWAYS BE EXERCISED), the first choices that come up are “NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms”, and “Characteristics of malignant neoplasms”, among others. People see “Cancer” and “malignant” and immediately get scared. Here’s the thing though…Myeloproliferative Neoplasms, MPNs, prior to 2008, were Myeloproliferative DISORDERS, or MPDs.
What exactly happened in 2008 to so drastically change the very existence of these diseases? Well…the World Health Organization reclassified them. Yep, That’s all. In 1951 When William Damashek described the disorders; he included CML, PV, ET and PMF in the group. At this time they were classified as Disorders. In 2001 the WHO gave them a broader heading of Chronic Myeloproliferative Diseases (CMPD), and included chronic neutrophilic leukemia, chronic eosinophilic leukemia/hypereosinophilic syndrome (CEL/HES), and “CMPD, unclassifiable”. Then in 2008 the WHO reclassified things a bit again. The term CMPD was just replaced by Myeloproliferative Neoplasm, or MPN.
You didn’t suddenly go from NOT having cancer, to HAVING cancer…the disease in itself, the proliferation of cells that do not belong where they are, is the fundamental meaning of “cancer”. The very definition of cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Our little family of diseases fits pretty well in that group when you look at it that way, doesn’t it?
I like to think of it as trying to organize your sock drawer. You have white socks, black socks, red socks, blue socks, those are easy to organize. But what about the multi-colored argyle socks? Where do you put those. Or the red white and blue striped socks? Or the holiday themed socks? How do you classify things that fit so many different headings? You use broader definitions. This is just what makes sense in my goofy mind.
I know that cancer is a scary word, but you could call it a disorder, a neoplasm, a disease, or Fred, if it makes you feel better, It will not change the fundamental nature of your disease. What matters is how you approach it. As long as you are approaching your situation assertively, and proactively, and educate yourself as well as possible, the classification of the disease shouldn’t mean much.
As always, you are your own best advocate. If you do not take care of yourself, who will?
Until next time,