Every now and then a seemingly positive story about cancer survival rates hits the press. Yesterday I awoke to a notification on my iPhone about this story which, you might think, would put a spring in my step (although I was still lying in bed at the time).
Apparently half of newly diagnosed UK cancer patients can expect to live for at least another decade. Sounds good, but the cynic in me soon kicked in and I scrolled down to find the inevitable ‘small print’.
Ah yes, there it is:
“Only 1% of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will survive for 10 years and only 5% of lung cancer patients. Ten-year survival in oesophageal cancer is 12% and for patients with brain tumours it is 13%.”
That includes the low-grade tumours so the outlook for brain tumour sufferers is still very bleak. As bleak, in fact, as it has been for the past 40 years.
The improvements in early detection and treatment for some cancers is fantastic. It is due in no small part to the huge amount of money generated for research. Breast cancer fundraising, for example, has become a massive industry. The fact that breast cancer is now a manageable disease in most cases just goes to show what a concentrated effort on one particular condition can achieve.
Maybe it’s time for the more ‘difficult’ cancers to step into the spotlight. Why is it that cancers of the brain, pancreas, lung and oesophagus remain so fatal? Are they just ‘too hard’ to deal with? Why can’t more be done?
It seems to me that these are the diseases that urgently require more research attention. Let’s put breasts in the background. They are non-essential appendages, after all. They aren’t nicknamed ‘funbags’ for nothing. I never hear the brain referred to as the ‘noddy noodle’. Although if it needs more nicknames, that’s a pretty good one.
The excision of cancer via removal of the breasts remains an option for many women. Not so easy when the affected organ is the brain. You really need that, and not just to feel ‘like a woman’ but to feel anything at all.