From an interview with
Dr. Michael Pavy
McLeod Oncology & Hematology Associates
Survival standards for cancer patients have historically been stated as a “five-year survival rate.” McLeod Oncologist Dr. Michael Pavy has one patient who has survived nearly four decades and Dr. Pavy says that may soon become the standard.
Here’s an overview of Dr. Pavy’s comments:
Interestingly, I have been caring for patients for 37 years and my patient #1 is still alive. He was 18-years-old with Hodgkin’s disease (cancer of the lymph nodes). And, he still sends me a Christmas card every year to tell me he’s doing okay.
On the one hand, I think we’re not going to get rid of cancer. That’s not going to happen for two reasons.
One, cancers are caused by your genetic mutations, which are going to continue to happen to people, regardless of how much progress we make in cancer treatment.
The other reason is that cancer is a disease of your immune system being weaker. When you’re a child, you have very little gene mutation and a strong immune system. As you age, you develop more mutations in your DNA and your immune system becomes lazier. So, even if we eradicate cancer in people in their 20s and 30s, we’re still going to have older patients with cancer.
The disease entities themselves will not go away no matter how much progress we make, I don’t believe. But with that said, we have to detect it earlier, prevent it somehow or cure it when it does come. Or what’s more likely to happen is the disease will become known as a chronic ailment like diabetes, high blood pressure or congestive heart failure.
The patient would live with the malignancy on a chronic therapy, as opposed to being totally cured. It’ll be similar to leukemia, which killed most patients back in 1981. Today, these patients often just take a pill a day and live a normal lifespan. So, I think that’s what’s going to happen.
We’re going to convert cancer from an acute, feared or difficult illness into a chronic low-grade illness, that the oncologist will manage over time. And, the patient’s life expectancy will be the same as what is shown on a Life Expectancy table.
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