Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pondering the Myths & Mathematics of Breast Cancer


About 155,00 women are living with metastatic breast cancer in the United States and this is projected to rise to 162,000 by 2011 according to Dr. William Gradishar, Director of Breast Oncology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. source: Reach MD interview 2010

In developed countries, nearly 30 % of women with early stage breast cancer will eventually develop metastatic breast cancer. (O’Shaughnessy J. Extending Survival With Chemotherapy in Metastatic Breast Cancer The Oncologist.2005; 10 (suppl 3): 20-9)

In 2008, almost 49,000 Americans, including 1,990 men, were diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. (American Cancer Society - 2008 Statistics)

98 percent of patients with breast cancer that has not spread beyond the breast live five years or more, while only 27 percent of patients whose cancer has spread to other organs survive five years.
(Komen website Jan 2010)

Median survival after diagnosis is three years. There has been no statistically significant improvement in the past twenty years. (American Society of Clinical Oncology [ASCO] Report - 2008)

Despite the decrease in cancer mortality rates since 1990, the actual number of Americans losing their battle with the disease has hovered around 40,000 each year since at least the year 2000.
(American Cancer Society statistics 2000 - 2008)

This translates to one death from metastatic breast cancer every 14 minutes.

The Myths...
Below are, reportedly, a few of the myths that still persist about metastatic breast cancer:

Myth: Research funding is well balanced for all stages of cancer

Reality: 90% of cancer deaths result from stage IV cancer, but only 2% of research funds are devoted to stage IV.

Myth: Metastatic breast cancer is rare

Reality: 30% of breast cancer patients progress to stage IV. Many more initially present with metastatic breast cancer.

Myth: Healthy lifestyles, timely screening and early detection prevent metastasis

Reality: Metastasis happens despite vigilance and precautions. Even stage I patients can and do metastasize.

Myth: Metastatic breast cancer is becoming a chronic disease. Fewer die every year

Reality: New treatments extend life for some, but survival remains elusive. Over 40,000 women and men have been dying annually since 1987.

Myth: Stage IV breast cancer patients are well supported by many groups

Reality: Far too many patients must face their challenges with little to no support. Most programs focus on wellness and recovery, avoiding any reference to stage IV.

And now for the good news...

Statistics can be frightening… and some statistics may not even be applicable to an individual and their specific type of cancer, or their particular response to treatment.

Many statistics represent an average number. Not everyone falls into that average.

Each of us is a statistic of ONE.

Check out:


  1. a. Myths are commonly classified as “untruths.” Some like to think of myths as a foundational story, a fantasy, kind of a virtual reality; one that can be either inspirational or despairing. The fictive aspect of myth gives the power to edit the story and enables new ones to come into being.

    b. Mythology is both a language and a method or pattern of thinking. Wendy Doniger suggestions language itself predisposes us to attempt to understand ourselves and our world by superimposing dialectics, dichotomies, or dualistic grids upon data that may in fact be entirely integrated.

    c. We learn about people through their myths and the stories they tell. To see and feel myths of our world: the spirituality and poetics of business, global politics, the narratives and images that unconsciously inform and shape lives and cultures; to glean the mythlessness, the absurdity, the irrationality and the meangingless.

    d. David Miller describes mythology like a computer program running in the background, an antivirus program, except in the case of mythology the program may be the disease rather than the cure. However, like an antivirus program, unconscious mythology only surfaces when something is wrong. It is the return of the repressed.

  2. " the case of mythology the program may be the disease rather than the cure." Oh how apropo!