Cancer Lesson #60: The Odds Might Be in Your Favor, But Just Barely

Cancer Lesson #60: The odds might be in your favor, but just barely.

Not long ago, I listened to a book about cancer called The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddarth Mukherjee.

I ordered it from the library when I was first diagnosed, took one look, and sent it back. At that point, I was feeling too scattered to even consider reading a 571-page tome about the disease.

Eventually, however, I ordered it again, this time on a Playaway audiobook and listened to it on my way to and from work. It’s more than twenty hours long, so it took a while. It was fascinating stuff – a Pulitzer winner, in fact – so I didn’t mind.

What I do mind, and find to be absolutely incredible, is one of the statistics the author quotes within the first few pages. I’ve referred before to the fact that one in eight women will get breast cancer in her lifetime – a fact I couldn’t believe when I first heard it – but Mukherjee’s statistic is worse, much worse.

One in two men and one in three women will get cancer in their lifetime.

There’s really nothing more to say.

4 thoughts on “Cancer Lesson #60: The Odds Might Be in Your Favor, But Just Barely

  1. It makes you think that really, this extended lifespan through better healthcare lark isn’t actually worth it. The statistics are no worse than they used to be, perhaps. It’s just that we no longer die from pneumonia, childbirth, tuberculosis, septicemia, gangrene or kidney disease. We are kept alive long enough for the trip switch in our genes to click over into ‘self destruct’, instead of dying before that happens. In a family with three out of four grandparents and both parents dying of or with cancer, I suppose I feel lucky that so far, I’ve managed to rewire well enough to carry on.


    • I know what you mean. My great great grandfather was in the US Civil War and taken prisoner by the south. He died at 44 of dysentery – basically chronic diarrhea. There were no antibiotics then. I think cancer – and perhaps antibiotic-resistant illnesses – are our dysentery.


  2. You prompted me to buy this book; I’m currently reading it on my Kindle and I have to say, it’s absolutely compulsive reading. We sometimes forget how fortunate we are to live in this age, where surgery is minimal for preference instead of the butchery that used to take place, and where radio- and chemotherapy are both fairly refined and effective tools in the battle against cancer. Some of the historical facts made my hair stand on end, and I’m only about 5% into the book. Thank you so much for the tip.


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