02
May

We’re Still Losing This War…

cigarettes

Warning: War & Peace was shorter.

If you’re hoping for a book review or book announcement or something humorous from me today, you came to the wrong blog. Sorry! But, as I said on Wednesday, I’m still in my grief fog. Thus, I’d like to do something productive with it, so here goes:

The reality is that even though many, many types of cancer are now virtually curable, there are some other forms of cancer that still are, basically, a death sentence for its victims upon diagnosis. Yes, a death sentence.

Now, I want to be absolutely emphatic about a few things before I launch into specifics:

1. ANY battle with cancer requires tremendous courage on the part of the patient, curable or not. Even for these cancers, our treatments for them are still barbaric, if you ask me. We either chop off a part of your body, nuke it, or poison it. In many cases the treatment plan includes all three. NBC News just did a report last night on how chemo may not be a wise treatment for many breast cancer patients because of its long-term psychological, physical and economic ramifications. Thank goodness–for breast cancer patients, there ARE other alternatives, in many cases.

2. I am not bringing this to your attention because of what happened to my brother. I’m bringing it to your attention so that you can make better decisions about how you participate in the solution to these deadly cancers. In fact, esophageal cancer has a better rate of survival than several others. If you ask me, the ones more deadly than esophageal cancer need to be addressed first.

3. Don’t assume that you can target your donations to a cancer research or fundraising organization for the most deadly cancers. I checked on this for the most known cancer organization in the U.S.—you can’t.

Now, with that being said, here’s what I know and have learned:

1. Cancer is about to become an epidemic in this country in a few short years. When I would tell people about my brother, most people’s responses were: “Geez. Everyone I know seems to have cancer.” And they are right to feel that way. If it hasn’t touched your immediate family yet, consider yourself one of the fortunate few.

2. We still know very little about what agents in our universe cause cancer. Even if we do know, we seldom alert the public about it enough for anyone to change their lifestyle to limit their risk. For instance, did you know that drinking alcohol is a risk factor for esophageal cancer? My brother quit drinking cold turkey the day he learned that. Too bad he didn’t learn it sooner.

3. Deadly cancers are deadly cancers because there is far less money donated to these cancers than others.  The reason why that’s so is because we, as a society, decided that these more curable cancers, at one time, were so deadly and killed so many people that we had to attack them with a vengeance. I agree with that philosophy and I am thankful that I’ve been able to enjoy the presence of so many of my family and friends because of that philosophy.

4. When less money is donated to a particular type of cancer, that means fewer scientists want to research ways to treat it. This isn’t mean or greedy on their parts–they need to pay the bills, too! If you’re being paid through a research grant, you have to research whatever the grant wants you to research!

5. When fewer scientists work on a particular type of cancer, there are fewer odds they will find innovative ways to fight it. Let’s be honest–the more brainiacs we have working on a kind of cancer, the greater the odds something brilliant will happen to find a great treatment.

6. When there are fewer ways to fight it and diagnose it early, then the chance of you dying upon diagnosis is much, much higher. Why? Stage IV cancers are much more complicated to fight. This is, largely, what happened to my brother. In esophageal cancer there isn’t even a Stage IV because you’re dead before it’s diagnosed!

7.  Even if diagnosed early, fewer treatment methods mean fewer chances for remission. Even if you go into remission, the chances are far greater it will return for deadly cancers.

So, which cancer is the most deadly? Here’s the top 5 and their mortality rates:

1. Pancreatic cancer – 94%.

2. Liver cancer – 83.9%.

3. Lung cancer – 83.4% and it still claims the most lives every year.

4. My infamous buddy–esophageal cancer – 82.7%.

5. Stomach cancer – 72.3%.

Notice anything about the top 5? 4 have to do with digestion. Think about that for a moment. If you get cancer in your digestive tract, isn’t that going to lessen your chances for survival? Uh. Yeah. Because you can’t get proper nutrition while you’re enduring this barbaric way we currently treat cancer! And that’s exactly when your body needs the most nutritional help!

My brother’s tumor was located at the junction where his esophagus meets his stomach. The tumor so blocked the stomach that he couldn’t even swallow his own saliva. And if chemo made him nauseous, things didn’t go the other way, either. Gross, but true.

Now, let’s look at the highest funded cancers for research per the National Cancer Institute:

1. Breast Cancer.

2. Lung cancer.

3. Prostate cancer.

4. Colo-rectal cancer.

5. Leukemia.

What does that mean for our Top 5 Deadliest Cancers? They are not as likely to find cures as quickly. Now, since lung cancer takes the most victims, I am very, very thankful it’s # 2 on the funded list. And I’ll agree that we need to throw money at leukemia, too. Why? It’s # 8.

Want to know where breast cancer, prostate cancer, colo-rectal cancer and leukemia fall on the deadliest cancer list? Here’s the most curable cancers:

1. Prostate Cancer

2. Thyroid cancer

3. Skin Cancer.

4. Breast Cancer

5. Uterine Cancer.

Want to know where the deadly cancers rank for funding levels? Pancreatic cancer is # 10. Liver cancer is # 12. Esophageal cancer is # 19. Stomach cancer is # 28.

When I was a kid, breast cancer was definitely a death sentence. But because of the Susan G. Komen model, it now has an overall survival rate of 89.2%. Stage 1 breast cancer is at 98%! Here’s even more good news: There are Stage IV survivors who have survived for 2 decades! When I was walking the 3 Day for Susan G. Komen in 2009, they announced that the Komen organization had been responsible for nearly all of the great advances in breast cancer research over the last 30 years. They seem to know who to fund, don’t they? That Komen model works!  My suggestion? We need to replicate it for those deadly cancers. And fast…before that cancer epidemic.

And, I think we need to be smart about taking care of our bodies and knowing what cancers are in our family history. And we should “choose wisely” when sending in our cancer donations.

When I realized that you couldn’t target donations to a well-known general cancer organization and realized that my brother was going to die, I decided to look for an organization that targeted funding towards esophageal cancer for those who wanted to send a donation in his memory. I found one that’s working on genomic testing for esophageal cancer. Genomic testing could lead to earlier diagnosis and thus, better survival rates. This organization is quite young, but it’s very well organized and pretty creative about fund-raising.

If you, like me, wonder how much of your donation goes to actual research, you can check out your favorite cancer organization at charitynavigator.org. Look for cancer charities with a 4-star rating. A 3 star rating is also good. But, if it has less than 3 stars, please consider giving to an organization truly worth your hard-earned money or asking that charity to take the necessary steps to earn a 3 or 4 star rating. Or suggest that they take a page from the Komen model and find ways to get that money where it most needs to go.

Why? You and your family may be the very beneficiaries of that.  And here’s a thought: Most of us can spare a dollar a day without really suffering. If we did that every day for a year, each of us would have  $ 365 that could be spent on cancer research. If just half of the U.S. did that this year, we would raise over $ 58 billion dollars for cancer research. Let that marinate in your vast brain for a while and then go make me proud.

Monday’s Post: The return of WOW!!!!!!! Can I get an Amen?

You might also like: Why I Stopped Writing, Another Kind of WOW, A Real Scare, and Lessons Learned from the 2009 Breast Cancer 3 Day

This entry was posted on Friday, May 2nd, 2014 at 10:50 am and is filed under Miscellaneous. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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