Image by sara b. | 2009 via Flickr
Inches, That Is…
Regular readers here @ Wordout will recognize that I haven’t been publishing anything lately. You’ll also remember that I’ve been fighting an illness for quite awhile. The two are related.
Last week I was diagnosed with lung cancer. The cancer seems to be about 2 inches by 2 inches (4.5cm X 5cm), as measured using the CT scan. The lymph nodes in my lungs appear to be clear and healthy, which is a great sign that it may not have spread yet. More test results are required to verify that it’s still only in the lung. I will have those results next week, after the biopsy has been done.
So far I’ve been through the xrays, the CT scans, the PET scan and an MRI on my brain. Next week I will be laying on a table quietly while a doctor punctures my chest with a huge honkin’ needle to withdraw some of the mass for direct observation. A couple of days after that I’ll be able to know exactly how bad the situation is.
Only then will I know what treatment options are available. Right now, it appears that I will either 1) Be a good candidate for surgery or 2) Have no options at all.
Either way, I am alive today.
I’ve done a bit of reading, and here’s a couple of excerpts and links for you, in case you’re interested.
Survival rates can be calculated by different methods for different purposes. The survival rates presented here are based on the relative survival rate which measures the survival of the cancer patients in comparison to the general population to estimate the effect of cancer. The overall 5-year relative survival rate for 1996-2004 from 17 SEER geographic areas was 15.2%. Five-year relative survival rates by race and sex were: 13.4% for white men; 17.9% for white women; 10.4% for black men; 14.5% for black women.
The stage distribution based on historic stage shows that 16% of lung and bronchus cancer cases are diagnosed while the cancer is still confined to the primary site (localized stage); 25% are diagnosed after the cancer has spread to regional lymphnodes or directly beyond the primary site; 51% are diagnosed after the cancer has already metastasized (distant stage) and for the remaining 8% the staging information was unknown. The corresponding 5-year relative survival rates were: 49.5% for localized; 20.6% for regional; 2.8% for distant; and 8.3% for unstaged.(See Fast Stats for more detailed statistics)
Fluid in the chest (pleural effusion). Lung cancer can cause fluid to accumulate in the space that surrounds the lungs in the chest cavity (pleural space). Pleural effusion can result from cancer spreading outside the lungs or in reaction to lung cancer inside the lungs. Fluid accumulating in the chest can cause shortness of breath. Treatments are available to drain the fluid from your chest and reduce the risk that pleural effusion will occur again. Cancer that spreads to the pleura is considered inoperable, so surgery isn’t an option for treatment.
Cancer that spreads to other parts of the body (metastasis). Lung cancer often spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body — most commonly the opposite lung, brain, bones, liver and adrenal glands. Cancer that spreads can cause signs and symptoms, including pain, nausea, headaches or others based on what organ is affected. In some cases, treatments are available for isolated metastasis, but in most cases, the goal of treatment for metastasis is only to relieve signs and symptoms.
Death. Unfortunately, survival rates haven’t improved for people diagnosed with lung cancer. In most cases, the disease is fatal. Almost 60 percent, or three out of every five people, diagnosed with lung cancer die within a year. Keep in mind, however, that this number includes people diagnosed with all types of lung cancer at all stages of the disease. People diagnosed at the earliest stages have the greatest chances for a cure. Your doctor can discuss more relevant statistics about your chances for survival with you.
There is no doubt that my lung cancer is caused by excessive smoking. I could spend my time doing the ‘If Only…’ and that time would be wasted, so I’m not doing that. It’s too late to change that past and as stubborn as I am, I probably wouldn’t change it anyway. I bought the ticket, and that train is never late.
But look – it’s not too late for you to stop. If you’re smoking, it’s like making payments for your own ticket. Ask yourself: Is that the (one way) trip I really want to take? Look around you. Are these the people you want to watch you die?
I am Jon. Put out that damned cigarette.