Let Doctors Deal With the Cancer Stats

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When I was diagnosed and treated for a recurrence of AML, I was given an abundance of statistical information through required medical expert orations and accredited literature.

cartoon image of blogger and AML survivor, Mary Sansone

When I told people that I had leukemia twice, I assumed that was enough for them to identify my diagnosis.

I had acute myeloid leukemia (AML). I knew that there were other types of leukemia, but I had no idea that there were 11.

For a person to be diagnosed with AML, generally 20% or more of the cells in the bone marrow or blood must be myeloblasts (immature white blood cells). The speed at which the leukemia cells overpower the development of normal cells is different with each type of leukemia.

“Eleven different kinds? Huh. That begs the question: How many types of cancer are there?”

I am a layman researcher. More accurately, I am an intern to become an amateur layman researcher. I am no professional, but I do follow recommended online resources provided by my cancer institution – Moffitt Cancer Center – here in Tampa.

I found that there are over 200 types of cancer. Any part of the body can be inflicted with cancer.

The five most common cancers include:

  • Carcinoma
  • Sarcoma
  • Melanoma
  • Lymphoma
  • Leukemia

Carcinomas account for 80% to 90% of all cancer cases. Carcinoma is “a malignant neoplasm of epithelial origin.” As I understand it, carcinoma is a cancer of the internal or external lining of the body.

I honestly thought breast cancer would be on the list. First, I never researched cancer until I became a patient. And second, I unfortunately knew too many women and men who suffered with this disease. Third, prevalent public awareness helped catapult the importance of getting screened as an annual priority. Maybe I was just oblivious about media messaging on the other types of cancer.

I found the 10 deadliest cancers. I must preface that I had one of these cancers – twice – and I am still here! This list is strictly statistical. A database has no soul.

  • Esophageal cancer
  • Lung cancer and bronchus cancer
  • Acute myeloid leukemia
  • Brain cancer and other nervous system cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Myeloma
  • Laryngeal cancer

Lung and bronchial cancer cause more deaths in the United States than any other type of cancer. But I have the pleasure of working with a long-term survivor; we both serve on the Moffitt Cancer Center Patient and Family Advisory Council.

STATS IN MY JOURNEY

When I was diagnosed and treated for a recurrence of AML, I was given an abundance of statistical information through required medical expert orations and accredited literature.

I was truly grateful not to be patronized. It was a lot to process, but I wanted to learn. I was blessed: My Moffitt medical team proved exceptional at communicating complex information with a dignified and humane deportment. They treated me like I was teachable and capable. They never spoke down to me, never scared me, never demoralized me and never gave me false hope. They were engaged with me.

After the delivery of intense medical information, my oncologist took a breath, and said “But who cares about the statistics?” (To be fair my ex-husband said the same thing. We’re still great friends.)

“You just need to focus on you. You are 100% alive. Each day you wake up, you are 100% alive. You will get the best treatment, oodles of love, and a watercolor set to support you in your treatment journey. Just focus on you." 

None of my loved ones let the statistics hang over their head. (If they did, they didn’t show it.) No one made impossible promises like “everything will be alright.” Instead, they visited me, asked my doctors a lot of questions, prayed for me, made me laugh, baked me cookies and made certain that my recovery room at home was completely sterile before my hospital release. Once I got home, they picked up my prescriptions, prepared my pills, fed me and loved me. And tolerated me, I might add. I can be a little weird.

I survived. My survival affected survival statistics. Researchers will be able to use that information to identify positive treatment solutions. For me, that is where the stats belong. Brilliant folks can continue the course on effective treatment innovations.

I’m 100% today.

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