Head and neck cancer survival statistics

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RE: Head and neck cancer survival statistics

by ErthWlkr on Sat Oct 22, 2011 03:30 PM

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Hi Judy:

I'm a volunteer with SPOHNC and have been matched up with several patients who have just been diagnosed, have gone thru treatment, as well as many months into recovery. We speak and write often. As far as I'm concerned, the survival rate is 100% - and I hope it remains that way!

I'd like to know which issue you read that statistic - I think it may have been misinterpreted. In the lead article in the latest issue (October 2011) by Sewanti Limaye, MD, an attending at Dana Farber in Head & Neck Medical Oncology, she notes that with the changing epidemiology of H&N cancer, and the increase in HPV related disease, there is a statistical survival rate of over 85%.

My own radiation oncologist explained to me that once I got thru the 2 year window without a recurrence, the odds of the cancer returning drop dramatically. Past the 5 year window, the odds of it returning are almost nil.

I've never been a fan of statistics since they can be skewed any number of ways. What's important is your own survival and the survival of your loved one if you are the caregiver. The only odds that matter are the ones that apply to you. And that number is as unique as you are.

I recently read a quote by Dr. Jerome Groopman - "Medicine isn't mathematics - there is no one clear answer."

Live your life, live it every day, live it all.

Onward we go!

- Jeff

RE: Head and neck cancer survival statistics

by Norak on Sun Oct 23, 2011 05:22 PM

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Hi

Just wanted to say that this month I am 15 yrs cancer free. I had base of the tongue Squamous cell carcinoma stage 3. I had radiation treatments only and have had various side effects over the years. Within the past 6 yrs I developed some nerve damage in my tongue which resulted in some speech and swallowing difficulty. The drs have said it is likely another side effect of the radiation treatments. I have learned to cope with this as well. Now, 15 yrs later, I imagine that radiation treatments have improved so that the radiation is more targeted resulting in less damage.

Like many of you I never liked to hear the statistics and asked my dr no to talk about it to me. I just wanted to know if anyone had survived this and he said yes. I changed a lot of things in my life at that point and concentrated on getting well. It is definitely not something that is easy to go through and a definite struggle. Now just enjoy each day.

Nora

RE: Head and neck cancer survival statistics

by tristeve on Wed Oct 26, 2011 01:10 AM

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so this is a great topic and we all think about it. So here is my story

The ent who told me I had cancer was a long time friend. Avid bike rider (as I) . he said what ever you do, don't go and read ther statistics on the web( of course I did)

hsi point it that all the people are lumped in together. He said that the bums who live under bridges are in the same group a me, just numbers. They are warped by people who come in late, don't do the treatment  and don't have good medical care.

So forget the math, we are all individual. This is a beatable disease. and so far, unless ghosts are typing, we are all on the right side of the equation.

But honestly, the statictics are always in the back of my mind

TriSteve

RE: Head and neck cancer survival statistics

by mark5004 on Sun Nov 13, 2011 02:19 PM

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This discussion has gotten confusing to readers because distinctions are not made that need to be called out.

Simply put, re-occurances can be put into two major categories: re-occurrance from residual disease and new primary occurances. 

The five year timeline was established because it is based upon the assumption that re-occurrance from residual disease is not likely at all after the five year timeline.  That assumption appears to be validated by most studies.  So Your ENT is correct is saying that once you reach 5 years, you have survived your cancer.

Now the bad news.  If you have been exposed to HPV, it lies dormant in your nervous system until such a time when it is activated by favorable conditions.  I need to locate the the study reference for this assertion.

There are two recent studies that establish new primary occurrance statistics of 50% over 35 years.

I am not a head-in-the-sand patient.  Making flippant references to street people as participants in medical studies is bunk.  When someone no longer actively participates in the study, they are dropped and their data is no longer represented.  These studies generally include only standard-of-care treatment regimens only.  Read the study rules at NIH website for details.

This disease kills often.  Promoting any other message does nothing to attract study and funding.  Get active and get recognition so fewer people suffer  this affliction.

Mark

RE: Head and neck cancer survival statistics

by ErthWlkr on Mon Nov 14, 2011 12:49 AM

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As has one been said - there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.

I am not one for statistics and my reasoning follows Steve's story - studies can be biased, either consciously or unconsiously and can be highly flawed. Just reading the daily newspapers shows detailed cases of study after study being debunked and its conclusions withdrawn.

When it comes to cancer, there is also the wild card of microbiology, the genetic makeup of the patient. Cancer, and its recurrence, are as much a product of the patient as they are of the environment. And that's an uncotrollable factor in these studies. Oddly, that's also a path to cure since more are more genetic keys are being found to rid the patient of the disease as well as determine the risk of becoming a cancer patient. And that's risk - not prophecy.

Statistics can be unnerving to the cancer patient since we also tend to focus on the bad outcomes. "What's my chances?', is a common question. Having cancer is a diagnosis - not a sentence.

Yes, HPV can go dormant. In fact, it can stay dormant. Additionally, the body can also clear it. So it is with cancer. A cancer cell can metastasize, go dormant, and never again bother the patient once the primary is gone. You can provide a general discussion of what "might" happen - but you can't generate a statistic related to that particular and unique patient.

Yes, the disease does kill. But the disease can also be successfully cleared. And the the knowledge and understanding of cancer, how it works, and to cure it, is growing almost daily.

I'm not one to put my head in the sand either. I know that for the rest of my life, my medical complaints, my aches and pains, will always be put into the context of cancer. But I also know that doesn't mean I'm going to be an active cancer patient again.

Onward we go - good health to all of you!

- Jeff

RE: Head and neck cancer survival statistics

by Sdurnell on Wed Nov 16, 2011 06:07 AM

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Mark,

I'm a great believer that information is power, so I never want to be without good information. 

Here you speak of HPV + cancer.  Do you know the 35-year record of recurrance in HPV- throat cancer?

I also just found out that my great grandfather died of throat cancer in 1927.  Of course he had little or no treatment, but I wonder if I inherited some tendency from him. 

Anyway, thanks.

Susan

RE: Head and neck cancer survival statistics

by jagerwin on Thu Nov 17, 2011 05:08 AM

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I can't believe that there is enough data, good or bad, to generate a 35-year recurrence estimate for HPV-related throat cancer.

But if so, I'd love to read about it.... i'm just a few months shy of year 3.

RE: Head and neck cancer survival statistics

by mark5004 on Thu Nov 17, 2011 06:13 AM

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Susan, The two types of cancer are not comparable from this perspective. The HPV is a persistent infectious disease capable of altering cellular DNA and the process can lead to a new primary cancer. From studying the process, researchers have derived the 35 year to a new primary for half of all patients expected pathology. If one has a genetic disposition to SCC HNC perhaps there is a risk of a new primary beyond the smoking and alcohol use factors. This has not been the subject of studies I have read about, and I would not expect one to have been authored. I believe that HPV- survivors have a better outcome risk against new primary tumors provided they abstain from smoking, alcohol and do not contract HPV. Mark

RE: Head and neck cancer survival statistics

by Dlynn1210 on Thu Nov 17, 2011 09:08 AM

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I would personally discount any study that compared survival rates over a 35 year period. You simply cannot compare cancer patients survival rates from thirty five years ago with those of cancer patients today. As my medical oncologists told me last year "ten years ago your type of cancer would have been a death sentence but today we have a chemo that eradicates it." I am four years out from treatment so looking forward to my fifth year. I'm someone who wants to know what I am facing but also not one to worry about what if..... I would much rather enjoy whatever time I have left here - whether it be five years or twenty five years! As my college statistics teacher said, "statistics are easily skewed - it depends on who is doing the collecting and what results they wish the outcome to be". Certain types of cancer are more challenging but HNC has a high cure rate. We can't change genetics so I don't concern myself with them. I try to eat as healthy as I can and don't drink alcohol. I have never smoked. I am doing my part in reducing any chances for a reoccurrence. Diana

RE: Head and neck cancer survival statistics

by Dlynn1210 on Thu Nov 17, 2011 09:11 AM

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On Oct 22, 2011 3:30 PM ErthWlkr wrote:

Hi Judy:

I'm a volunteer with SPOHNC and have been matched up with several patients who have just been diagnosed, have gone thru treatment, as well as many months into recovery. We speak and write often. As far as I'm concerned, the survival rate is 100% - and I hope it remains that way!

I'd like to know which issue you read that statistic - I think it may have been misinterpreted. In the lead article in the latest issue (October 2011) by Sewanti Limaye, MD, an attending at Dana Farber in Head & Neck Medical Oncology, she notes that with the changing epidemiology of H&N cancer, and the increase in HPV related disease, there is a statistical survival rate of over 85%.

My own radiation oncologist explained to me that once I got thru the 2 year window without a recurrence, the odds of the cancer returning drop dramatically. Past the 5 year window, the odds of it returning are almost nil.

I've never been a fan of statistics since they can be skewed any number of ways. What's important is your own survival and the survival of your loved one if you are the caregiver. The only odds that matter are the ones that apply to you. And that number is as unique as you are.

I recently read a quote by Dr. Jerome Groopman - "Medicine isn't mathematics - there is no one clear answer."

Live your life, live it every day, live it all.

Onward we go!

- Jeff

Jeff - You and I are in total agreement here!!!!!
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