So. Tuesday’s post was kind of heavy, huh? Sorry about that. You know I’m usually not so numbers-oriented around here, but this weekend’s conference really shook me. I was surprised by … the facts. Particularly the facts about metastasis. I thought we were making progress. I thought people were living longer. Since the last 20 years has shown a huge increase in the survival statistics for inflammatory breast cancer (the five-year survival rate has increased from just 2% to about 50%), and we hear so much about the great increases in those with local disease (98% of those with localized breast cancer now make it to the 5-year mark, says the National Cancer Institute), I guess I just extrapolated to the conclusion that early detection IS saving lives, and that people with cancer WERE living longer. Maybe you did too.
But the ugly truth is that almost the same number of women with breast cancer die every day in the United States as they did 20 years ago (and I apologize to my international readers, but I only have U.S. stats for this one). Twenty years ago, 119 women died of breast cancer every day. Last year, the number was estimated at 110. We are finding lumps and cutting them out, cutting off women’s breasts, poisioning ourselves with chemo, and offering ourselves up to be burned with radiation, and still, 110 women each day still die of breast cancer in this country alone.
Avastin, the “miracle drug” that I hoped for last summer, extended the average woman’s lifetime by three months. Three months. It was hailed as a breakthrough, and everyone wanted it — but at best, it extended life by [an average of] three months — and clinical trials showed that the “side effects” included things that no person would choose to have if they could help it, and so its full FDA approval for breast cancer was not rushed through like its preliminary approval. It wasn’t enough. But oh, the outcry! Do you know why? Because this $90,000 drug held out the potential, the promise, of three more blessed months on the planet.
We have to do better. I’m not satisfied with the fact that nine less women die each day of breast cancer [and so many more die here and worldwide from the other cancers that plague our planet]. What about the other 110?
Yesterday, fellow #cancerrebel Uneasy Pink wrote about the seeds of cancer and asked her readers a very important question posed at the conference that helped me look at advocacy and awareness organizations in a very different way. It’s exactly the thing that has bothered me before about pink, and pretty ribbons, and breast cancer bouquets that donate a dollar to “the cause.” Read her post, please, and let’s talk about this a little more — because today there are 110 more women who cannot.