As many as half of all of us will get cancer at some point in our lives. It can happen at any time and without warning. People could already have it and not know about it.
Whilst cancer is incredibly prevalent, it is actually not one thing. Cancer is a large number of cell mutations and can be completely different from type to type. (So all the conspiracy theorists who think the pharmaceutical companies have a cure they are holding back can sit back down).
Those are all facts. Now lets look at the plus sides. In early diagnosis, cancer is most often extremely treatable. Only 1 in 4 cancers are found through people needing emergency treatment (ie it has got to the point it is actively health threatening). That means 3 out of four are found before hospitalisation. The ones where the survival rate is highest though, are those which are discovered where there are no, or a limited number of symptoms.
My case is a prime example. I felt over tired from running six miles. I got checked out, and they found it. If I hadn’t been a runner, or got myself checked out, I still wouldn’t know I had it. Knowing early allows you to consider more options and decide what you can do when there are still a number of things they can.
I strongly urge people to get medical screening once a year or so. One of our clients have rolled it out to their staff and they found two cancers in the last five years, both of which were dealt with, and had no complications. Why? Because they got it early. Consider asking your company to put this in place if it isn’t already.
In terms of prognosis doctors give you a five and ten year prognosis on cancers. This is based on a survival rate. It’s important to note that if you die, by any cause (ie bus) you will be deemed to bring down this figure. So it’s always lower than the condition merits.
Also there is something called left arm bias (which Aaron put me onto) which means individuals can always do much better than average. This is often because it is mainly older people who gets certain forms of cancer, over 70s, and so the prognosis is always higher for younger people, as you are less likely to die of age related illness. Unfortunately there are rarely studies which exclude the elderly, and so younger people can often get a bad prognosis, when they should probably have a better. A good example of this is Stephen Hawkings, who was given two years in 1963. There are always people who buck the trend.
The other thing to think about is that in many cancers, if they are treated early, and get it out, that is sometimes the only thing you need to do. It may reoccur but often it doesn’t.
Finally if you do survive cancer for ten years, it will likely be something else that gets you.
I really feel for anyone who gets diagnosed with cancer. You feel angry, confused, sad and cheated all at the same time. Why me, you think, this isn’t fair. It doesn’t pass quickly either, and for the next few months you won’t be the same. The feelings can reoccur at any time and in any place. Having treatment may help this, at least you are doing something. Ultimately though it’s a shot card to be dealt, and one that takes a lot of time to work through mentally and emotionally.
It often isn’t as bad as it appears though, and until you get a firm diagnosis you really don’t know what you are dealing with. Oftimes, if caught early, simple surgery can deal with it, and it may never reoccur. Even if it is incurable (like mine) things can look better than you think at the time. Just the word Cancer can freeze people up and they will often assume they will be dead within a year. It’s a terrible situation to be in but prognosis’ vary so much that it’s important to get all the facts and not panic.
I am due my 2 year and 9 months check up this month. Up until now it’s been good news and going well. It could still be, but only the tests will tell me, so there’s no point worrying about it in the interim (even though you unavoidably do).
So that’s my thoughts on the train journey this morning. Jo is well, work is good and look twice before crossing the road, to check for buses.