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Invited Commentary
October 2018

The Evolving Nomenclature of Thyroid Cancer: What’s in a Name?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor
  • 2Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018;144(10):874-875. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2018.1271

“Cancer is a word, not a sentence,” acknowledged John Diamond1 as he embarked on an ultimately losing fight with oral carcinoma. It reflects the fear that the word cancer has instilled in the public for millennia. To many, a cancer diagnosis was, and remains, akin to a death sentence or, at the very least, a jarring call to battle. This connotation is rooted in the long-established theory of linguistic relativism, which stipulates that thought and action are determined a priori by language itself.2 Even today, our nuanced understanding of cancer biology and the inherent diversity of malignant processes has not erased the stigma and terror that the word evokes in our patients.