Statistics Overwhelm

After getting the oncotype report and reading all about tailorx and other trials I feeling like I am being bombarded with life expectancy percentages and wondering if 2% here or 5% there really make much of a difference.  Chemo yes or chemo no.  Are survival rates after 9 years so much different for a disease free person in their late 50s or early 60s.  It also makes me very anxious to have constantly wonder will we make it through this year.  I am beside my self with trepidation.  Wondering how others process all this information?

Hi rjh

Yes, you’ve unfortunately entered a whole new world with a whole new language which can be very scary. The way I got through it all (and am now navigating the world of secondary bc) was to ask myself this question: how much information can I handle? Implied in this was/is do I want to know the statistics for my particular cancer? Can I cope with the anxiety it would generate?

I actually decided to ask as few questions as possible, only skim read copies of letters sent to my GP and not ask for copies of scan reports to analyse. I also didn’t do any research - I had breast cancer and no amount of knowledge would change anything. My only regret is that I didn’t find this forum until my treatment was almost ended! I knew I had 2 tumours, one ductal and one lobular, I saw words like invasive and aggressive and applied the same reasoning. Did I want to know when I could do nothing about it? In a way, that did me a favour because I didn’t know one of my tumours was triple negative. I think, had I known, I’d have been scared witless.

You’re right. Statistics are just data helpful to the specialists to decide on the best treatment plan. A 2% difference might be a 20% difference for one person and a 0% difference for another. And yes, how does age come into it? But, considering you are now going to have to trust your team and will be going through one or more potentially tough treatments, do you want that trepidation and anxiety? Do you need to be beside yourself because you’re poring over the data? Actually no, you don’t. But you may be a person who needs to have all the data and ask all the questions to feel in control of your experience. In that case, you have to find strategies to reduce the anxiety and believe what you’ve thinking - will it make that much difference?

I’d still say yes, even though I have now got a spread despite the full works. If my oncologist suggested chemo and offered me the choice, I wouldn’t take the risk of sometime in the future wishing I’d made a different choice - I would go for it. It’s manageable and some get by with few side effects. Others, like me, are knocked for six. It’s still worth it. Incidentally, if you are being offered the option of chemo, that indicates that your cancer has not progressed as far as someone who is told they need chemo. But I still wouldn’t take the risk. It’s not a cheap treatment so your oncologist probably thinks it would be worth it but, as it’s not imperative, the option is yours (because it’s not an easy treatment path!).

I hope you manage to work things out. Once you’ve read the information, it’s hard to forget it but you can work out ways to reduce the anxiety it generates. One thing I would suggest is something I do every morning after I’ve taken my 9 chemo tablets - it’s a meditation called Cure Anxiety by Progressive Hypnosis, free on YouTube. I’ve never stayed alert to the end, It is linked to sleep and is very effective. However, you may already have your own strategies for feeling ‘emotionally healthy’ ie. none of this overwhelming anxiety.

Wishing you a calm and successful trip through Cancerworld, regardless of your decisions. Remember, we’re all different and this is just one woman’s experience. Most breast cancers, if caught early enough, never trouble patients again. Survival rates are way better than even a decade ago. Take care (and NEVER Google - it’s disastrous).

Jan x