Tuesday, April 1, 2014


I see so much about breast cancer. It seems to be a cancer that gets a lot of attention. Given that there are 232,570 new cases of invasive breast cancer each year, I would imagine it comes as no surprise.

There are times I feel like the different types of cancers are in competition with one another, and the fact is, they probably are. There is only so much that people are able and willing to do, and the pie of possibilities is often sliced to smithereens.

Having said that, I decided to check something out for the sake of comparison, and not competition. I did it for a matter of perspective.

If you ask women if they know a symptom of breast cancer, the odds are fairly good they have some idea of what to look for. But if you were to ask them about ovarian cancer, I'd be willing to bet anyone uninitiated by an experience with it wouldn't have much of a clue.

The fact is that many doctors probably won't, either. Ovarian cancer often masquerades as digestive issues, and there are "only" 21,980 new cases of ovarian cancer each year.

232,570 to 21,980

In some ways, there is no comparison. There is over 10 times the difference between the two incidence rates.

Here is where I think it gets more interesting, though.  There are 40,000 breast cancer deaths each year. Want to guess how many ovarian cancer deaths there are? If it was approximately the same ratio of incidence, you might think about 4,000.

Try 14,000.

So there are approximately 10xs more breast cancer cases each year, but a much higher mortality rate from those who deal with ovarian cancer, with the difference being that for each breast cancer death, there are 3 ovarian cancer deaths.

Two reasons come to mind. One is the fact that many people have no clue what the signs of ovarian cancer are, and for that reason it is often diagnosed too late to do much about it. Secondly, there seems to be greater opportunity for treatments for breast cancer. Whether or not the second part is accurate I can't say for certain without more facts and research. Even still, fact number 1 is pretty potent on its own.

A friend of mine said something today about how there are other cancers, besides breast cancer. It seems, though, that they are dwarfed by the volume of those who talk about it. The biggest and best things aren't always the ones that get the most attention and success, but there are times that because they seem to be the biggest and the best, they get the greatest ground swell or support, even when there are other things that might be just as important to note.

It is difficult to talk about things like this without going into competitive waters. It just seems to be the way we are wired. But the thing is that the most important thing to you will always be the one that you have to interact with. It will be the thing with the greatest reward, or the thing that exacts the greatest toll. 

If I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I am fairly certain my efforts would not be on the ovarian cancer conversation. In much the same way, someone dealing with pancreatic cancer is most likely focused on that conversation. 

However, at the core, many of the issues are the same. Many of the things that are said, or happen, or don't happen, have common threads that could bring us together. I find myself wondering who exactly is leading the calls for action. Is it those who have been down the road, or perhaps those who only want to help those who are affected.

In my conversations with others dealing with cancer it seems there is a connection and an understanding. There doesn't seem to be a competition. When we truly relate to another, I am not sure there is room for competition. Competition is a relationship more with a thing than a person.

Maybe it is going to take being more willing to relate to the individuals than the disease itself (regardless of where it decides to live in another person's body) for there to be a cumulative positive - that is non-competitive - when it comes to how we relate to those who deal with cancer in our society.

People who deal with cancer are no more a commodity than mothers with young children or athletes or toothpaste users, and yet, at the core, that is exactly how anything involving money treats those who have the money. Any of those examples suck, but I think when someone is hurting it is even worse than when they're not.

It is during times of hurt that we should be looking past the superficial, and seeking to connect at the core of our human connection. The thing is, empathy cannot be monetized. It can also be pretty scary and sometimes even painful. Seeking the superficial might seem to make more sense to avoid those aforementioned pitfalls.

It only works, though, as long as you are able to remain detached and unaffected. The pendulum swings wildly in the other direction the minute you are touched. Your perspective and world changes, and your new understanding can bring a sense of empathy with rewards that were once unfathomable.

I don't really like walking around talking about the symptoms of ovarian cancer. I have even had some people cringe, and push the information away. They don't want to go anywhere near it. Can't say that I blame them. At the same time, I wish I had had an opportunity like the one I offer people to better understand the symptoms so that I could have looked into it before it got to where it got to.

Sadly, I think I had at one point looked at the symptoms, but dismissed myself from thinking that I was dealing with it. I told myself I was likely overly concerned. After all, the odds of me dealing with it were pretty slim.

I have to believe that if my story shows up for someone, and if the things I share resonate, then there is likely a chance that it is information that is in some way beneficial, and perhaps help someone to consider getting info. The one thing that I did not have, despite the symptom list, was what to ask the doctor for. That might have been what would have had me take action. At least I would have known what to pursue.

I have no idea what the best way to approach things like this is, but it isn't going to stop me from approaching it all. I am not one for statistics usually, but the statistics I quoted above speak volumes, and if there is any way that I can help another avoid some of what I have been going through, I am all for it.

1 comment:

  1. Keep sharing - keep writing - keep baking - give your words, voice, actions time to resonate.