So long, farewell, Auf wiedersehen, good night…a statistical jettison (The Race is On)

“Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” Aaron Levenstein

With a respectful nod to Harper’s Magazine, my ‘Index.” Synthesizing the vast amount of data resulted, invariably, in variables and discrepancies. Data shifts further when race, gender, socio-economic status and ethnicity are taken into account. I had sworn off statistics as I am not a number. But when I feel like digging deep, as curiosity and a hungry desire to know more about this cancer claws at my heart and mind, I go there. Less so now. And even less, I hope, after this jump into the deep water.

In the hospital, during the initial trauma, they had to wrest the phone from my clutched hand, as I was known to be up in the wee hours of the night, scanning my iPhone for answers and data. Looking back, it was not a healthy exercise as it left fear, sadness and even more unanswered questions, all while in the induced haze of post-surgery. I don’t advise going there, as I did, as you will be stuck in your own avalanche of information anyway.

We are not a statistic. Life is a variable. That said, grabbing the bull by the horns again, I wanted to face down these numbers. Own them, name them, put them on my plate, digest them and then purge them.

Mark’s Index

Revenue in 2009 for United Way, the largest non-profit in the US: $4.2 billion

2009-2010 fiscal year earnings, Susan G. Komen for the Cure: $400 million

Amount George Soros, leading philanthropist contributed in 2010: $332 million

Net worth, Bill Gates: $56 Billion

Highest paid CEO: John H. Hammergren, McKesson Pharmaceuticals

Compensation: $131.2 million

Net income (TTM): $46 million

2010 National Cancer Institute funding, brain cancer: $156 million

Funds raised by ABC2, Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure since 2001:$16 million

Gross Receipts, opening weekend, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” : $169 million

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 video game sales, first 24 hours of release: $400 million

Revenue in 2011 of Wal-Mart, ranked#1 Fortune 500 Company: $421,849 billion

Enough cancer cells for 1 experiment, including shipping: $300 to $500

Cost of one pound of Kashmir Mogra Cream Indian Saffron: $7,680

Cost of Avastin, a drug for lung, and colorectal cancer for one year: $100,000

Year President Nixon signed the US “War on Cancer”: 1971

Cost of War on Cancer (research) since then: $100 billion

Leading cause of death and numbers in US (2006): Heart Disease, 616,067

Second leading cause: Cancer: 562,875

Population of Portland, Oregon (2010): 583,776

Largest stadium capacity in US: University of Michigan Stadium, 109,901

Annual government funding for National Cancer Institute over past 6 years: $4.9 billion

2010 Military budget: $663 billion

Cost of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan wars (2011): $1.7 trillion

Number of deaths from these engagements: 236,000

Number of US citizens people diagnosed with lung cancer (2007): 203,536

People who died from lung cancer (2007): 158,683

Cost of smoking in direct health care costs: $96 billion

Number of chemical compounds created by burning one cigarette: 4,000

Number of additives: 599

Known carcinogens: 51

Estimated new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in women in the U.S. in 2011: 230,480

Estimated people (55% male, 45% female) in U.S. diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2010: 23,720

Number of breast cancer survivors in the US in 2011: 2.6 million

Number of brain cancer survivors in the US in 2004: 124,000

Lowest 5 year cancer survival rates in order: 1) pancreatic 2) liver 3) esophagus 4) lung, 5) stomach, 6) brain cancer

Approximate number of people who will die of primary brain cancer in 2011: 13,000

New cases of children with primary brain or central nervous system cancers, 2011: 3,000

Leading cause of cancer death among children and young adults under 20: leukemia

Second leading cause of cancer death among children and young adults under 20: brain cancer

Rank, of brain cancer, as leading cause of cancer-related deaths among adult males up to age 39: 2

Rank, of brain cancer, as leading cause of cancer-related deaths among adult females up to age 39: 5

Most commonly diagnosed cancers among men: 1) Prostate 2) Lung 3) Colorectal

Leading causes of cancer death among men: 1) Lung 2) Prostate 3) Colorectal 4) Liver

Most commonly diagnosed cancers among women: 1) Breast 2) Lung 3) Colorectal

Leading causes of cancer death among women: 1) Lung 2) Breast 3) Colorectal

Different types of brain tumors: 120+

Beer known as the “Holy Grail for Hopheads”: Dogfish Head 120-minute IPA

Percentage of adults with cancer whose primary cancer is brain cancer: 1-2%

Percentage of adults with brain cancer with ependymoma as their primary tumor: 1-2%

US Adults killed by lightning in 2011: 26

Odds of being killed on a 5-mile bus trip: 500,000,000 to 1

Chance, according to NASA, of anyone on Earth being hurt by a satellite’s death plunge: 1-in-3,200

Adults in US diagnosed with ependymoma brain cancer (all stages I-III) annual average: 300

Number of brain cancer treatments approved by the FDA in the past thirty years: 4 (last one just approved this year: NovaCure‘s NovoTTF-100A device)

Number of FDA-approved drugs in 2010: 21

in 2011: 35

$ spent on weight-loss drugs in US, annually: $1.3 billion

Number of weight-loss drugs on market: 200+

Percentage of adults with ependymoma located in spine: 60%

Those located in brain: 40%

Median age of those diagnosed with brain cancer (2002): 55

Median age of death (2002): 64

Lives saved from cancer research from 1990-2004: 500,000

Colorectal cancer cases prevented and lives saved due to screenings: 60,000, 32,000

Good news? Indeed there is, mixed with the bad. According to The National Cancer Institute at NIH, from 2003-2007 “in men, incidence rates have declined for cancers of the lung, colon and rectum, oral cavity and pharynx, stomach, and brain while rates have risen for kidney, pancreas and liver cancers, as well as melanoma of the skin. In women, incidence rates decreased for breast, lung, colorectal, uterine, cervical, bladder, and oral cavity cancers, but increased for kidney, pancreas, and thyroid cancers as well as for leukemia and melanomas of the skin.”

However, that this data is already four years old give me pause as I believe the landscape has changed yet again. And the elephant in the room? Brain cancer and cellphone use. As of now, many studies and evidence do not ascertain any concrete evidence of a link, but in my heart I must feel there is something to the fact that incidences of brain cancer, especially for those between 20-29 continues to rise. (see link) It may very well be the biggest health scandal since doctors endorsed tobacco in commercials and tobacco companies knowingly hid data about the effects of smoking.

There are very few studies, three to my knowlegde…of ependymoma.

Sources include Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, American Brain Tumor Association, American Cancer Society, Brown University, National Brain Tumor Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Collaborative Ependymoma Research Network, MD Anderson, National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, Reuters, Washington Post, Wikipedia

Goodbye statistics…so long, farewell… Auf wiedersehen, good night. Send me on my way…The Race is on…and Happy Thanksgiving! XO


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