Non-cancer terminology

I just saw a fascinating article about reducing cancer linguistically at the blog PatientPOV. At the NationalInstitutes of Health Consensus Development meeting earlier this month, a panel of doctors and researchers came up with this very unusual suggestion.
The panel was investigating prostate cancer. This condition is prevalent in the U.S., and today more than 2.5 million American men are prostate cancer survivors. But it is often a slow-growing cancer that doesn’t develop any symptoms. Not that it’s completely harmless - the severe form of prostate cancer is horrible and will likely kill 33,000 men this year. But most (approximately 70%) diagnoses are for the low-grade form. There is no difference between the longevity of men with no prostate cancer at all and the longevity of those with low-grade cancer. Yet 90% of men who are told they have prostate cancer seek aggressive treatment, which is painful and often causes incontinence and impotence.
The panel was discussing two different, less harsh treatment strategies called “active surveillance” and “watchful waiting”. Active surveillance means not treating the condition, but scheduling frequent exams and biopsies to monitor the situation. Watchful waiting entails educating men about possible symptoms and then just waiting for those symptoms to appear before pursuing treatment. The panel’s goal was to determine if and/or how these techniques should be encouraged as treatment options.
Upon reviewing all the data we have now, the panel concluded that these observational approaches are underutilized. They made many recommendations that are quite common from these sorts of panels: we need to develop better diagnostic tests to distinguish the risky cancer from the not-so-harmful cancer, we should educate doctors so that they have the best information to give patients, and (especially) someone should fund lots more research into different aspects of this problem. On that note, a large study on active surveillance and diet recently began accepting patients at 12 different sites here in Georgia. But in addition to these traditional approaches, the panel also came up with one really unique idea:
Stop calling the low-risk form of the disease cancer.
Instead of telling men with low (under 10 ng/mL) levels of the protein PSA and borderline biopsy results (Gleason scores of  6 or less) that they have prostate cancer, the panel recommended that doctors avoid the emotionally charged word. While the panel did not suggest a replacement term, wording such as “prostate alert” or “idle tumor” has been proposed.
This seems like a reasonable idea to me. I’m not exactly an average patient. I’m a professional scientist who can pronounce things like dehydroepiandroesterone and androstenedione. I understand statistical analysis and I read medical journals. And I still find the word “cancer” to be powerfully intimidating. I think the stress of hearing “you have cancer” would force me to act, and it wouldn’t really matter if the action was logical or in my long-term best interest. I would want to actively fight cancer.
But if a doctor told me something along the lines of “You have some abnormal cells. Right now, they’re not hurting you, but some day they might turn into cancer” I’d be far less anxious and more likely to consider all my options. I know that technically cancer is abnormal cells, but that phrasing just does not provoke the same visceral response.
This recommendation is not drawing any attention right now, but it seems like it should. It’s a very simple way to clarify risk and help patients understand their options. Sure, it could be hard to implement a cultural change like this. But not that long ago, people didn't talk about cancer. Now we've managed to raise billions of dollars and taken over an entire color for cancer awareness. I don't think adjusting terminology is so daunting that we should just ignore experts' advice.

Newest element names

IUPAC announced the names for the next two elements yesterday, flerovium and livermorium.

Flerovium (Fl) is the proposed name for element 114, which was discovered in 1999 by researchers at Flerov Laboratory in Dubna, Russia. This is the same place element 105 (Dubnium) is named after. The 12 year gap between finding and naming a new element isn't surprising. Because there have been many instances of people thinking they've found a new element when they haven't, it takes a long time for a new discovery to be adequately checked. There's still about a 5 month consideration period before the new names are finalized. I think it would be better to use Fv as the abbreviation than Fl because of fluorine, but confusing general chemistry students isn't high up the list of concerns for IUPAC.

Livermorium (Lv) element 116's discovery was also reported by that same Russian group, but is named after Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California.. Originally, they proposed naming it Moscovium, since Dubna is located in the oblast of Moscow. However, IUPAC pointed out that it was the collaboration between the Russians and the Americans that allowed the discoveries to be made, so naming one after each place is more politically correct. Americium, Californium, Berkelium and Lawrencium  are all named after the work done here. Don't go trying to updating the Elements Song just yet, 113, 115 and 117 have all been reported and will probably get names within a few years.