It has become common practice to refer to anything that is difficult to control or manage, for whatever reason, as cancer. This reference is made by one and all, irrespective of whether they are aware of what cancer is, its nature, the advances that have revolutionised understanding of the disease, concepts in management or its treatment. Many times, the reference can be quite irrelevant and when such references are made by those at the helm of affairs, the impact becomes all the greater. It will be read by many patients undergoing treatment, of all ages, by survivors. It is difficult to know how they react.

As one who has been actively involved in cancer care and control over the last five-and-a-half decades, in a developing country with limited resources, I am quite disturbed by such references. It would seem that the reference is made without appreciating the tremendous negative impact it has on cancer control activities. Years of effort to educate the public that early cancer is not only curable but also preventable, that modern advances have brought many cancers considered fatal and incurable within the ambit of curability, can be completely erased by just one reference to cancer like the one made by President Obama (reported on page 1 of The Hindu of May 14, 2010).

Cancer is a biologic phenomenon. Terror is man-made. Where is the need for such a reference?

In the long-term interest of cancer control, especially in developing countries, the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, which is renowned for its work in the area, should consider this its responsibility and appeal to the U.S. President to withdraw the reference to cancer.

Dr. V. Shanta,

Chairperson

The Cancer Institute

Chennai