Cancer is no longer a death sentence

I’d heard a lot about cancer in the news, and I’d known a few people who had it. But when it hit me, the only question that mattered was, am I going to die? Is death inevitable?

The answer was, maybe. My case was bad: researching my profile of symptoms, I read “Prognosis is grim” and “Outlook is bleak.” Later, I learned that the most current information isn’t on the best medical sites(!), because it takes 17 years for research to go from concept to funding to study to analysis to publication. Instead, the only reliable source I found was my peers on ACOR. I came to learn that when your butt is on the line, the most reliable advice comes from others whose butts are on the same line.

I learned that cancer is no longer a death sentence. That’s not to say it’s never fatal – a half million Americans a year do die of cancer. But most patients don’t.

I learned that there are numerous ways that having cancer doesn’t spell doom. Survival rates are markedly better than a generation ago, and increasingly cancer becomes a manageable chronic condition that you live with, similar to congestive heart disease or diabetes.

Face it: if you live long enough to die of something else first, you didn’t die of cancer! (Some people are discovered at autopsy to have had an unrelated cancer they never even knew about.) And some people have tumors that appear on their scans but never change, which suggests that the tumors might be dead – not the person.

I know, a cancer diagnosis is no picnic. But the only important question is, what do I do now?

Answer: get it in gear. Do everything in your power to find the best treatments. Start by finding a community of patients with your disease.

Published on: August 05, 2008
About the Author
Photo of e-Patient Dave

Healthcare blogger "e-Patient Dave" deBronkart works in high-tech marketing in the Boston area. His interest in healthcare ramped up rapidly in January 2007 when a routine shoulder x ray revealed kidney cancer that had spread throughout both lungs.

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Recent Comments

Are you kidding? Of course cancer is a death sentence! If that were true, my grandpa and countless of other patients such as Farrah Fawcett and Peter Jennings would still be alive today. Such a statement could not be more false.


So sorry for the loss of your grandpa. Cancer can be very cruel. However, I think you misunderstand the statement. It’s not that no one will ever die from cancer, but no longer does everyone who is diagnosed with cancer die as a direct result. I personally had cancer 19 years ago and am very heathy today.