CaSfA - Cancer Support for All
News from CaSfA's Director

February 2014

Life Expectancy for Cancer Patients

There has been a lot of discussion among members of the group surrounding a recent article in the New York Times, "How Long Have I Got?" http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/25/opinion/sunday/how-long-have-i-got-left.html?_r=0 .  A neurosurgical resident recently diagnosed with lung cancer writes the piece.  He discusses his frustration in not being told how long he has to live.  He comes to realize there is such a great range of life expectancy that is reasonably possible, that doctors really cannot give him an “expiration date” (as Elaine D. calls it). He writes, “Based on today’s therapies, I might die within two years, or I might make it to 10. If you add in the uncertainty based on new therapies available in two or three years, that range may be completely different. Faced with mortality, scientific knowledge can provide only an ounce of certainty: Yes, you will die.“ Not even the greatest cancer expert can tell you where you will place in the survival statistics.  So I’m surprised when I hear that some people are actually still given a specific life expectancy.  As a physician, there were plenty of times I thought patients were going to die, only to see them rally.  I truly believe any attempts to give an “expiration date” is only an educated guess at best.
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