Tuesday, June 28, 2011
I am a statistic
The state of Massachusetts keeps a list of cancer statistics on their website. I am not entirely sure why we become statistics but we are.
In the town I live in, there were 197 cases of breast cancer in the five years 2003-2007. There are 196 other women like me in the same town. I probably know 15-20 of them so we can be statistics together.
The National Cancer Institute publishes data on cancer rates on their site which now go from 1975 to 2008 so they include both my cancers.
The American Cancer Society also posts a lot of data on cancer including deaths through 2007 and estimated new cases for 2011.
When I was diagnosed in 2007, all the data available was through 2002 or so. It was rather disappointing because that wasn't what we wanted. The biggest reason for the delay is not only do they have to count all of us but they had to wait for the five year survival rates to be compiled.
Unfortunately, the National Cancer Institute only has limited statistics on five year survival rates for diagnoses occurring through 2007. So we are getting close.
Because face it, all we want to know when we are diagnosed with cancer is:
'What are my chances', 'Am I gonna die?' and 'How soon?'
The numbers, of which there are lots, are never satisfying. The old data does not give us the current story. We are told they are based on the treatments that were available at that time and not on current treatment protocols which are better. It is rather frustrating but we are forced to be optimists.