Saturday, July 19, 2014

Why do I bother to ask these questions anyway?

This week I saw my oncologist for my annual check up. I am happy to only see her once a year... Except when I nominated her for an award last winter or when I ran into her in the hallway at the hospital. So, I, who am never afraid of the direct question, asked her "so what are my chances of more cancer?". Why not ask? I would prefer to know what can be known. This little question of what could be coming in the future has been irking me for years.

The answers I got were:
  • Even with my medical history of two cancer diagnosis and family diagnosis of a parent with cancer, there is no way of knowing if I am likely to get another cancer. If there was some genetic predisposition that would be different but there is no way of knowing. People who get cancer once, are more  likely to get another cancer. People who get cancer twice, are more likely to get a third cancer. Et cetera. Not very helpful.
  • The chances of having a thyroid cancer recurrence are still out there but not known. It has been known to recur decades later.
  • The chances of having a breast cancer recurrence since I am still on Femara (Letrozole) are somewhere around 6%. She ran my data through a computer model and got the magic number.
We talked about it a little... And then I left. And then I realized, so what does 6% mean?

Does it mean I have a 6% chance of recurrence? Or that my chance is 6% greater than the rest of the population of getting another breast cancer? I just have to accept there is a 94% chance I will not have a recurrence.

Why do I even bother to ask these questions? Did it get me anywhere? No. I guess I am asking questions that have no answer. Damn.

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