The Cheerful Oncologist

I just got back from a relaxing holiday and heard the shocking news that another political figure has suffered a relapse of cancer. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow apparently is recovering from an hepatic resection where a small (“tip of the finger-sized”, if one believes these idiotic news reporters and their unscientific description of medical data) metastasis was removed. I read one story where a commenter remarked that the average survival of metastatic colon cancer was only six months. For once, somebody got their facts correct – the problem is that this terrifyingly short “average” length of time refers to the average survival of untreated metastatic colon cancer. This is like reminding the nation that the average survival of patients who refuse to ingest solid and liquid refreshments is only three days; I might add that attempting to breathe without the benefit of at least 21% oxygen in one’s general vicinity leads to an average survival shorter than the evening song of Bubo virginianus.

The encouraging news for patients faced with this tribulation is that the “average” survival is much longer than six lousy months – if modern day treatment is given. I’ll explain more tomorrow. Buona notte.

Comments

  1. #1 Donna W
    March 28, 2007

    From what I’ve seen of people with incurable cancer being “treated”, I think I’ll take the quick way out, thank you very much. Life without quality is worse than no life.

  2. #2 The Cheerful Oncologist
    March 28, 2007

    To Donna W:

    I understand your point of view but also feel compelled to relay the other half of this debate, viz, far too often incurable cancer does “not go gentle into that good night.” It would be presumptuous in my opinion to assume that choosing to die of untreated cancer guarantees a quick death without any deterioration in one’s quality of life. On the contrary, metastatic cancer can cause unrelenting suffering while the noxious effects of treatment dissipate with the merciful passing of time. Patients often assume that starting chemotherapy or targeted therapy will ruin their quality of life, forgetting that the malignancy itself is the main risk to their chance to live in comfort.

  3. #3 moioci
    April 4, 2007

    I might add that attempting to breathe without the benefit of at least 21% oxygen in one’s general vicinity leads to an average survival shorter than the evening song of Bubo virginianus.

    It appears that an individual with healthy lungs (low A-a gradient) can survive quite well at 18% O2 and, with mild hyperventilation, even 15%. I wonder what the “effective FIO2″ would be for climbers scaling Everest without supplemental O2…I’m guesstimating 12%.