"Women diagnosed early are more likely to survive." Charts and lists often carry those words. But I've still been puzzled about what they mean for every woman diagnosed.
Almost two years ago, in another state, the sweet young man across the courtyard gave me a party favor on the night his sister celebrated five years free of breast cancer. In other cancers five years means you might have a normal life span. We celebrate, as we should. But breast cancer is different.
Why do I bring this up? Because I still have 1 3/4 breasts. And although I'm old, my diagnosis made me aware that I'm just starting to live!
An older study explained on the California Breast Cancer Research Program site clarified that phrase that always sends up a red flag for me: "no difference in survival rates." They mean, let's face it, even diagnosed early, we still may not live a normal life span.
CBCRP* cleared up my fuzzy thinking on this (which before Tamoxifen was maybe just plain denial.)
Medical treatments we know about don't always work. Here's the math: Jane Doe is diagnosed, gets the best that the best can offer her. It doesn't work. She stays alive for six years. She goes into the five-year-survival statistics. But she's deprived of a normal life span.
Before we invent more medicine, we need to know why the treatments we have can't give women back a whole life. The new study on women who can't metabolize Tamoxifen completely, and what to do for them--that's a start. The emphasis by women like Lisa Carey, MD, on individual women and the possible differences in breast cancer cells - that's another start.
In California, people can route their tax refunds into Breast Cancer research. What can the rest of us do? Send money to Mayo Clinic? Call our state legislators when we can't sleep?
I wish you health