What does the data say?
As a lung cancer patient/survivor, I think the one thing that causes me the very most frustration in this fight is that people in general just don’t seem to care. Until it happens to them or to someone they love, they walk blissfully through life thinking they are immune to lung cancer (after all, they didn’t smoke) or that those with lung cancer somehow got what they deserved (after all, they smoked, right?).
Statistics say that if you are diagnosed with lung cancer, the chances that you will live for five years are low, even if you are diagnosed at stage I or II. According to the American Cancer Society, for the period 2007 - 2013, if you are diagnosed at stage I lung cancer, you have a 56% chance of surviving five years. If you are diagnosed at stage IV, like the majority of us are, then your chances of seeing your 5-year cancerversary are only 5%.1
Those stats will show some improvement when they are published for more recent years. Researchers are making remarkable progress, despite a dearth of funding, in finding ways to improve our life expectancies. I know lots of people who are living full and complete lives with stage IV lung cancer long past the magic five-year marker.
Encouragement from researchers
I found a very encouraging quote from Dr. Gary Gilliland, President and Director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA. Now, he isn't speaking specifically about lung cancer here, but I think we can all be encouraged by the following:
"I’ve gone on record to say that by 2025, cancer researchers will have developed curative therapeutic approaches for most if not all cancers.
I took some flak for putting that stake in the ground. But we in the cancer research field are making incredible strides toward better and safer, potentially curative treatments for cancer, and I’m excited for what’s next. I believe that we must set a high bar, execute and implement — that there should be no excuses for not advancing the field at that pace."
Dr. Gilliland goes on to say that, while immunotherapies are offering great hope, a single approach to curing cancer is not enough. “We will need a convergence of different expertise, new research methods and strong data science to reach the goal of cures for more patients,” he says.2
Small steps forward every day
I often say that if I have to have lung cancer, now is the time to have it. So many exciting discoveries have already been made and researchers and scientists are making progress every day toward new and even better treatments. I believe it is truly possible that someday even late-stage lung cancer will be treated as a chronic disease, if not completely cured.
When I think of all that our lung cancer researchers and scientists have done with limited funds, I always wish I could send them each a great big thank you!! And, through it all, I have to wonder where we would be if only lung cancer wasn't treated like a stepchild when it comes to federal funding.
Are you satisfied with your care team?