An untreated cancer patient co-exists with his cancer for a longer duration and more peacefully than a person who treats his cancer
In today’s free economy the maxim “CAVEAT EMPTOR – let the buyer beware” holds ground. To judge the efficacy of any service the buyer relies on the success rate of the supplier, whether goods or services e.g. coaching institutes boast of their success rates in various examinations, the lawyers boast of their success rates in winning as many cases, etc.
The whole business of five-year, ten-year and x-year survival rates is marred by the fallacy of an early or late ‘countdown’. Ms. A has a breast lump, and she does not bother about it for four years. Then she decides to get it treated, and dies after two years, to be registered as a case that came late and therefore, died early. Ms. B has a similar lump, she gets treated within six months, lives for four years, and is registered, in contrast to Ms. A, as the case that came early and survived longer. In reality, Ms. A lived with her cancer for six years, and Ms. B for four and half years. The apparent longer survival of Ms. B was because the countdown on her cancer started earlier. An extended limitation of the above fallacy of countdown arises from the fact that no one – neither the patient nor the doctor – knows exactly when the cancer started in the body.
The most commonly cited five year survival rate as a standard of cure is comparative and fallacious assuming as it must that all the cases ' if untreated would have a nil per cent five year survival rate.’ The real cure rate, Park and Lee define, is represented by the difference between the five year survival rate of all cases following treatment and the five year survival rate of those same cases had they been left untreated. ‘In several forms of cancer, survival for five years after a therapeutic procedure means little by itself, since a considerable proportion of untreated patients are known to survive five years or longer.’
Park and Lee, in a detailed, highly critical article entitled, ‘The absolute curability of cancer of the breast,’ and containing numerous graphs and mathematical calculations, concluded that (a) it could not be proved that the survival rate of breast cancer, using as an index the five year survival rate, was in any way affected by treatment, (b) treatment was quite ineffective in reducing the mortality from metastatic spread, and (c) if the treatment was ‘in any way’ effective the so-called effectiveness could not exceed that required to increase the overall five year survival rate by more than 5% to 10%.
Cure Rate : An Update 2004
The year 2004 is fast coming to an end and it will be worthwhile to have a look how the latest of cancer research and sure to cure medicines have effected the cure rate. We place before you the following facts:
"..President Richard Nixon's famous speech in 1971, launching what became known as the war on cancer, America has given nearly $70 billion (in actual, not inflation adjusted, dollars) to its National Cancer Institute (NCI). And that is not to mention money spent by drug companies and charities-nor, indeed, the research budget of other countries. Despite these billions, the rate of death from cancer in the United States has increased from 163 per 100,000 individuals in 1971 to 194 per 100,000 individuals in 2001.( See graphic illustration above)" [Source: The Economist October 16th -22nd 2004]
"The deadliest cancer in many developed countries is lung cancer. In the United States, it roughly kill 160,000 men and women every year...." [Source: Science 30th April 2004]. The New Complete Medical and Health Encyclopedia, (volume 4) - by J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company, Chicago,1986 had reported that, lung cancer killed 90,000(70,000 men and 20,000 women) people in USA. An increase of 1.8 times in a span of 17 years.
Wonder Drug Irressa: The latest drug for the lung cancer, Irressa arrived in the market with a great hype. Let our viewers decide about its wonder from this report of Science 30th April 2004 - "Irressa causes significant tumor shrinkage in only about 10% patients who take it, but when it does work clinician say it workings amazingly well"!!!
Promises and reality of 2005?
We just left behind the year 2005. As far the cancer world is concerned, we feel that the "New York Times" of December 21st 2005 summed up through this report "New Drug Points Up Problems in Developing Cancer Cures" very nicely. We produce here the relevant portion from the report:
Although every field has suffered, cancer has had the greatest chasm between hope and reality. One in 20 prospective cancer cures used in human tests reaches the market, the worst record of any medical category. Among those that gained approval in the last 20 years, fewer than one in five have been shown to extend lives, life extensions usually measured in weeks or months, not years.
True cancer cures are still exceptionally rare. Medicines have been approved for colorectal cancer. Patients who take every one of the high-tech drugs has to spend, on average, $250,000, suffer serious side effects and gain, on average, months of life, according to studies.
Drug companies have been promising for years that gene-hunting techniques would yield targeted nontoxic therapies that melt cancer, but few cancer medicines fit that profile.
"There are all these myths having to do with cancer drugs," Dr. Steven Hirschfeld, an F.D.A. medical officer with expertise in cancer, said. "That they're very targeted, when in fact all these drugs have multiple targets. That they're nontoxic, when in fact the latest ones have their own set of side effects. And that they're cures, when they are not."