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Statistics: what do they Mean?

While statistics only apply to large cohorts, ignoring statistics can be dangerous.

Esophageal cancer - as are most cancers - is a crap shoot. You take your best shot and hope for the best results.

Right now, the 5 year survival rate for localized EC is 47%. In days past survival rates were given in terms of staging, but that seems to have changed. I am unaware of any survival statistics that break down treatment modalities, it would be interested in seeing them if such are available. Since I was diagnosed more than 20 years ago, surgery was considered THE cure for EC. Stage 1 patients were sent straight to surgery, never had chemo and/or radiation, and had a 5 year survival rate approaching 100%

The big fear is metastatic disease. If your Stage 2 turns into Stage 4, the 5 year survival rate drops to 5%. Are you willing to take those odds?

It must also be noted that these survival rates are based on treatment modalities at least 5 years old. New treatments come down the pike regularly, but we won't know how they affect 5 year survival rates for a few years.

As I said, it’s a crap shoot. People with Stage 2 disease do recur even after chemo, radiation, and surgery. But all doctors I’ve spoken to over the years agree we have one good shot at a cure and that’s to hit the cancer with everything we have as early as possible.

One of the best ways to learn what the statistics MEAN is to read a short essay be Stephen Jay Gould titled:

The Median isn't the Message

Dr. Gould was diagnosed with abdominal mesothelioma in 1982. The median survival rate after diagnosis was, at that time, 8 months. The essay describes why he found this dismal number encouraging. He lived 20 years after diagnosis.

"Stephen Jay Gould, PhD (1941-2002) was a evolutionary biologist and natural historian, professor at Harvard University and New York University, and acclaimed author of essays and popular science books."