In 1996 an international study identified 7 factors that consistently predicted the probability of remission in Hodgkins Lymphoma patients. (Well, actually, they were looking for the probability of what they called the five-year “Freedom from Progression of Disease,” or FFPD. I interpret FFPD to basically mean remission.)
The probability of remission is much different than the probability of survival, so you have to be careful not to read the results as such. It’s easy to get carried away with cancer statistics.
The 7 factors include things like age, sex, and the measure of certain chemicals in your blood. As I understand it, a patient without any of these 7 would have a remission probability of 84%. For every factor you have, you lose 7%.
According to this test, my probability of remission is around 60% for the next five years. That means, according to whoever these people are that developed this project, that I have a 60% chance of losing this cancer and staying cancer-free between now and 2010.
But why stop there? Since we’re discussing statistics, I should mention that progressive heart disease is much more likely in Hodgkins patients following chemotherapy. Moreover, patients that receive chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkins Lymphoma are 4 times more likely to develop lung cancer, and are at an increased risk to develop leukemia within the first 10 years following treatment. In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, the number one cause of death among Hodgkins patients is second cancers that develop following diagnosis.
Be that as it may, the Dave Hahn Institute of People Who Are Nuts says that if you don’t take the chemotherapy to cure your Lymphoma, you have a 100% chance of being an idiot. If it happens, you should feel lucky that you lived long enough to develop a second cancer, heart disease, or whatever else.
Realistically, I think these numbers – and really, any cancer statistics – should mean very little to an individual cancer patient. There are just too many factors involved to make any of these statistics worthwhile. Every individual responds differently to the treatment of cancer, and considering all the things modern medicine still doesn’t know about this thing called cancer, there’s really no way to know what will happen.
So, while these numbers are, I suppose, impressive or intimidating, they don’t effect me much. The really valuable thing that can be taken from all this is that tomorrow is not guaranteed, and you better not let today pass without making the most of it.