Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cancer as Chronic Condition

One more video from Patient Power: Dr. Owen O'Connor, head of Hematology and Oncology at NYU, discusses looking at cancer as a chronic condition.

It's a short video, and Dr. O'Connor brings up the idea that maybe we don't need to approach cancer as something that needs to be cured -- maybe we can just try to control it. It's certainly not a new idea, and he doesn't really add anything new to that conversation (it's one that's been going on since I first became a patient six years ago). But (especially given his credentials), it's a good reminder that the conversation is out there, and that we have a choice about how we approach our cancer.

Dr. O'Connor pints out that the "controlling" approach might be especially appropriate for older patients, who might have a tougher time tolerating a more aggressive approach. He also hints that maybe for patients with an indolent cancer, without symptoms, controlling might be better than trying to cure.

It's an interesting question, one with emotional component, just like there is when we think about Watching and Waiting. If someone like me, diagnosed at 40 years old, was given a third option (other than chemo and W & W), of taking a pill every day to control my cancer, would I take it? It's a nice middle ground -- you feel like you're doing something, but you're not worried about the severe side effects. (Which isn't to say that the "controlling" treatments have no side effects. They just seem less severe than traditional chemo.)

It's an interesting question.

And one we might all start thinking about.....


Anonymous said...

I agree Bob that I wish we could control our nhl as easily by say taking a pill as like in diabetes but cancer is so much harder to manage and after all these years they haven't found a FDA approved treatment with less side effects for follicular lymphoma as of yet that can control it long term. So how much hopeful do you think we can be for this approach? I am also in my forties and always afraid of what the future holds .

Anonymous said...

I was also diagnosed at 41, and have been successfully living with b-cell follicular NHL for over 12 years. At the time of diagnosis, the expected survival rate was 10 - 12 years. I can happily report that, although I have been in and out of various treatments over the years, I am currently managing with maintenance Rituxan which keeps my disease at bay with limited side effects. So I am managing/controlling my cancer, and living as fully as possible, and I am grateful for all of the advances that make this possible.