January 25, 2011

Stats don't scare me

My cancer is common, but my cancer in people my age is not. Colorectal (colon + rectal) cancer is the third most common cancer in men, and the fourth most common cancer in women. It is the fourth most common cause of death from cancer. Australia has one of the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the world, three times higher than the incidence in China.

I'm not sure why but I'm not scared of reading about the number of people that die from colorectal cancer. The rates are not 100% which means every day people go on living after having this type of cancer.

Would you read the following paper in my situation: "Young patients with colorectal cancer have poor survival in the first twenty months after operation and predictable survival in the medium and long-term"? At first I didn't want to read it, but then I remembered that scientific papers always have crap titles, so I did.

Luckily for me I found three interesting points:

1. The tumours of young people with colorectal cancer tend to be found later than for older people. This is because only people over 50 are regularly screened. If you have any symptoms like I did (see my first post) then ask your GP to be screened for colorectal cancer.

2. Young people, despite having colorectal cancer that is a little more advanced at the time of treatment, have better chances of survival than older people. Insert smiley face.

3. The first 20 months will be the real test, but after that my chances of survival GO UP, not down like in other cancers. Cancer survival is usually measured as 90% of people survive after 2 years, 70% survive after 5 years and so on. This paper suggests that the chances of survival improve after the first 20 months for young people with colorectal cancer. Insert smiley face.

I think my training as a scientist has made me familiar with numbers and how they are analysed. I understand though that these numbers can be hard for others to hear.


  1. Thanks for putting up this blog! You are so brave to read those papers and analyze them scientifically!

    BTW: What a brilliant name for this blog!


  2. You are amazing and I love you. I could never have read that paper.

  3. Stats are rubbish, especially when you are in the top 1 percentile of the world like you are. I am as proud of you as Mr Monkey is of his blue eggs. Stay strong bro, and keep writing, fantastic sci comm tool.

    Tbo (holding the Kexue Communications fort)

  4. Ben you have balls of steel. By writing this blog you are looking after all the rest of us as well as yourself. Btw a mate of mine is looking fantastic six months after a major bowel op (also 28 and very fit) - this will be you too.


  5. Great blog, Ben. Congratulations.

  6. Point 3 - I am not an overly rational person, but surely statistics like that apply to life itself. Meaning: after birth, 99% of people survive for 5 years, etc.