Survival

goodnews

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.

cartoonbrain

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.

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11 comments

  1. Ladybug · · Reply

    What’s your view on alternative cancer treatments, Jill? My husband recently had recurrence of the tumor, which type is quite similar to B’s – after 8 years in remission. He’s now undergoing intense treatment combining both radiation and chemotherapy. We watched “Dallas Buyers Club” and went searching in the internet for alternative treatment and found tons of writings against chemo/radiation..

    1. Hello! B doesn’t have any faith in alternative treatments really, and I tend to agree with him. He’s a very scientific type (getting a PhD in Physics does that to you). If there isn’t scientific evidence to back it up, he’s not interested. I do think they can work but I’m not sure how much of it is ‘the placebo effect’.

      1. Ladybug · ·

        Hi Jill,

        Good to see that you have not written much these days, I take it that things are going well for u guys!

        I stumbled again on your blog recently when my husband’s stage-3 oligodendroma popped up again, after the last radiation and chemo 3 years back, I had been in another roller-coaster ride. Unfortunately this time, I have to experience it while I’m expecting our second child.

        I had not anticipated the tumour to come back so soon.. anyway 4 out of 5 specialists which we met, suggested for another craniotomy. With the confidence that it is currently rather small and located at easily reachable spot, they all rated the surgery complication as 3 out of 10.

        So we went ahead with surgery, and that was a week ago. I probably have underestimated the post surgical effect (or did not spend much reading about what to expect), since I was not with my husband when he did his first craniotomy back then in 2005. But, the past 1 week has been quite challenging especially on the mood and behavior department. My husband became a different person and seemed unable to converse much with me, despite removal was in the area far from speech center. It was indeed on the frontal lobe.

        Anyway, in the midst of my own frustration, I recall your blog and was trying to seek some reference on B’s post surgery symptoms. But they seem to be quite different. Or maybe 1 week is too soon for me to conclude anything.

        Sorry for ranting on your blog but I guess I cannot find anyone else that I think can somewhat relate with our situation..

      2. Hello! I’m sorry to hear your husband’s tumour has raised its ugly head again. B had similar problems with being unable to speak after the surgery. He saw a speech therapist who really improved things, pretty immediately, but his treatment went on for months afterwards. Has your husband seen a speech therapist? Luckily B’s personality was unaffected, I know that’s one of the more awful side effects of this disease. I wish you well – how are things going now?

      3. Ladybug · ·

        Hi Jill, thanks for the reply! My husband was finally admitted back to hospital last night due to the unbearable pain in his head. Apparently he had some post-surgery complication caused by the “communication” between the brain and sinus bone – through which air could go into the brain and caused the headache. So he had to undergo a second surgery tonight to seal this “communication” channel.

        We have not seen a speech therapist so far, but depending on his condition after this second surgery, maybe we need to look into that.

        I really hope that this second surgery helps him to ease the pain and discomfort and hopefully he can slowly return to himself. The surgeon did warned me that it may take up to 2 months to recovery.

        The bummer part is I feel entrapped with this tumour. Seems like this ugly mass will definitely come back and it’s just a matter of time.. and no matter what, there is no way for us to be prepared for its comeback. Based on his past experience: he managed to stay 9 years without anything post his first surgery, then he had an occurrence which got resolved with temodal and radiotherapy, but sadly this time round, his remission only lasts 3 years.

        Is B taking anything regularly that may help with his immunity or maybe defense again these reoccurrences? Or have you ever heard anything proven scientifically to boost immune system against brain tumour over there?

      4. That’s awful, nobody wants to have brain surgery once, let alone several times in succession. How is he recovering? I know what you mean, there is no escape from it. 9 years symptom free after intial brain tumour surgery is actually really good although I’m sure it doesn’t feel that way when it does return. B doesn’t believe in any treatments or therapies that don’t have sound scientific backing, so he’s generally not keen on them. He doesn’t take anything apart from his anti-seizure meds.

  2. Just a word to encourage you. I was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour when I was 17 (1994). I have undergone 12 lots of neurogsurgery and survived. I now, (as of March 2013, thanks to radiotherapy that I had in 2002 slowly but surely shrinking the tumouor) no longer have a brain tumour!

    I live with chronic pain all over my body and continual headaches as a result of all the scar tissue in my brain but I am ALIVE and cancer free!

    If you’re interested in reading my blogs you can access them at these two websites: http://www.kiwibraintumoursurvivor.blogspot.com and http://www.kiwibraintumoursurvivor-TODAY.blogspot.com. The first is telling my story in retrospect, then second is snippets on how living with continual pain and headaches affects my outlook of life.

    1. Thanks! Your story is very inspiring, I will have to catch up with all of it. It’s hard to find positive brain tumour outcomes!

  3. P.S. I meant to say there that it would possibly make the most sense to go to my ‘archives’ and read from my first posts on each blog?

  4. Hi Jill,
    Love your attitude. My husband has GBM4 – first symptoms Dec 2013, diagnosis March 2014. Been thru the usual Stupp protocol, now hoping for a good progression free period. You write really well. Aussie attitude? Jan NZ

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