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NGC1514's picture
Posts: 44
Joined: Dec 2008

I saw mam132's mention of statistics and how he was "given" 12-18 months. I posted this a couple years ago, and, perhaps, it's a good time to post it again. The thing to remember about statistics is that while they may be grim, they have absolutely NO bearing on an individual. We are each either 100% alive or 100% dead. None of us are 23.7% alive after 14.5 months or whatever a statistic might say.

The best article I've seen concerning statistics and cancer is the piece by Stephen Jay Gould written after he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. It's a short essay, but it contains a very important message about dealing with statistics. You can find it at: http://cancerguide.org/median_not_msg.html

The piece, entitled "The Median isn't the Message" may be a bit confusing to those not accustomed to working with statistics, but it is worth the time for a couple of readings until you see what Gould is trying to say.

Gould was diagnosed in 1982 and discovered the median survival for those with mesothelioma is 8 months. Most of us would see that 8 month figure and decide it was about time to order up a funeral. Gould looked at the number and saw a great deal of hope in it. The essay explains why.

By the way, Gould lived another 20 years after his diagnosis.

Eric in Atlanta

Posts: 20
Joined: Nov 2011

Thank You for the encouragement.

Donna70's picture
Posts: 921
Joined: Aug 2009

Thanks Eric I will check it out. After I read that I probably had 2 yrs or less, I came on this board and saw hope for the first time and decided that statistics don't mean anything. I have a very dear friend who has stage 4 lung cancer and should have been gone in 8 months but she is still here 2.5 yrs later and doing fine, now many cancers are treated as chronic diseases. There is always hope and the human spirit is a marvelous wonder. thanks for the message.

chemosmoker's picture
Posts: 524
Joined: Aug 2011

Amen, and amen!
What a great post!
What do those mean anyway. It's as useful as predicting how your eggs are going to taste based on how the eggs from the last few days tasted. It is just silly.
I LOVE the part about none of us is 23.7% alive!! I actually FEEL 100% alive, pain or NOT, today. Amazing, isn't it?

God bless and keep up the great work!


(PS-you have the BEST name)

NGC1514's picture
Posts: 44
Joined: Dec 2008


I agree with you that some uses of statistics are plain silly. Telling a patient that he has only some number of months ahead of him based on statistics is the silliest and most destructively painful use of statistics I can think of. Of what possible good can it be to a patient?

But statistics are of great utility to those attempting to cure cancer. You need a ruler to see what works and what doesn't and statistics remain the best tool available.

A careful and caring doctor can recognize the difference between the two and might say "In all honesty, your long-term prognosis is not good, but we'll do everything possible to improve that." Compare that message of hope (granted, not a lot of hope, but hope nonetheless) to "Sorry, but the statistics say you have 12-18 months." To the individual patient, this is meaningless and heartless and I'd be out the door looking for another doctor.

Eric in Atlanta
(The other Eric!)

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Posts: 22
Joined: Nov 2011

What a great reminder for us all. It certainly gives us hope when you think of it in those terms.

Gatoraid's picture
Posts: 71
Joined: Aug 2010

When I was first diagnosed I spent extensive time on the internet doing research. What I found was very scary and definitely misleading. Much of the information was dated and inaccurate. many of the statistics I learned grouped Squamous Cell and adenocarcinoma together because it was felt that they were the same since they both pertained to the esophagus. 10 years ago adenocarcinoma cancer in the U.S. was rare and there were very few clinical trials which accounts for the poor statistics. Now that there has been a great increase in the number of cases the number of trials and the posted statistics should improve. The statistic that sticks out in my mind was the 5 year survival death rate of 73%, not very encouraging.

I agree with your way of looking at it. As someone who is stage 3, it's a coin toss. When it's our time to go, it will happen and when it's not our time, we'll still be around. A positive outlook is always the most healthy way to go forward. Make the best of what time you have.


AngieD's picture
Posts: 504
Joined: Sep 2011

Thank you for another thoughtful and hopeful post.

Heeran's picture
Posts: 173
Joined: Aug 2011

Great post Eric,
Before I found this forum, I went into overdrive doing research after my mom was diagnosed with stage 3b squamous cell. And of course everything I came across was really grim. I think I even read somewhere that the chance of her surviving based on her staging was 5%. I was a wreck. No wonder the nurse told me at one point to not go out on the internet. Just like everyone else on this forum, we're taking it day by day and dealing with all of the side affects, mental and physical, that come along with cancer and the treatments. I know it's heartbreaking to deal with people losing both small battles and the war against EC, but at the same time, it's uplifting to know that there are people on here having miracles and beating the odds.

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