Sunday, December 16, 2007

Week 6 Summary and Some Cancer Statistical Sources.

Good news is that it was a uneventful week. Started coming down with sore throat so had to back off walking a bit, but think I got three short walks in anyway during a period of cold weather. I am going this morning to get blood tests, as prelude to infusion tomorrow and start of round 3 of chemo.

I had indicated earlier that I wanted to make this site more than just about me, by providing information about cancer and cancer treatment. So today I want to share some good sources of cancer statistical information.

Cancer Stats:
The most important thing to keep in mind is that statistics do NOT predict what is going to happen to any one individual, but they CAN give a more realistic snapshot of the incidence of cancer and survival/remission data that goes well beyond stereotypes that "everyone dies" or conversely the equally over generalized "most people now get cured".

Two locations offer the best starting point. The National Cancer Institute HERE, and the very detailed Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data can be found HERE. Today I'm going to focus on SEER data.

SEER data
From SEER, a page leads to state level profile data, available by cancer "site" (type and body organs) HERE. The most detailed information, from SEERS Cancer Query Systems allow users to focus on incidence, mortality, or survival rates and can be found HERE.

Survival SEER data
, with an interactive database can be found HERE. It takes some time to get used to making selections properly, but from this database one can narrow searches by site of cancer, age when first detected , race, etc and then extract specific data or charts showing survival rates , typically by period: 1 year, 3 year, 5 year etc.

Five year survival rates for white males in my age group for all stages of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) diagnosed from 1996-2003 was 66.7%. With the same demographics, for testicular cancer the 5 year survival rate was substantially higher at 89.4%. Take away point: the site of cancer can make a big difference in survivability, as can other variables like age, gender etc.

  1. Advances in chemo for NHL may have improved outcomes since the beginning of the reporting period, survival rates may therefore be somewhat understated
  2. More advanced disease stages will have poorer outcomes.
  3. Younger ages typically have had better outcomes for NHL, so being in the middle of the range likely improves outcomes at least marginally.
  4. Repeat after me: Stats do NOT predict individual outcomes.

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