Doctors being asked to stop using the 'c-word'

Doctors are being asked to stop using the word "cancer" in an effort to reduce patient anxiety.

Australian researchers say many people who are told they have cancer are choosing unnecessary surgeries over sufficient non-invasive care.

"While active surveillance is increasingly being recognised as a safe management option for some patients with cancer, there is still a strong belief that aggressive treatments are always needed," says research co-author Professor Kirsten McCaffery of the University of Sydney.

Instead of labelling slow or non-progressing conditions 'cancer', terms like 'lesions' or 'abnormal cells' may be considered more appropriate.

However, Graeme Woodside from the Prostate Cancer Foundation says patients need to have all the facts.

"I'm not sure how you would describe it so that patients actually knew the reality of the condition that they had.

"Nowadays cancer doesn't mean a death sentence and increasingly it's becoming a treatable disease."

Mr Woodside says some people will be confused if the word "cancer" is avoided.