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January 26, 2022
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David Burda
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How Long is Your Cancer Roll?

A woman I used to work with recently died from cancer. We weren’t close, but I heard secondhand that she died of cervical or ovarian cancer that had spread. It got me thinking about how many other people I know who either had cancer, have cancer or died from cancer. So, I started to make a list. 

Here is my de-identified cancer roll, in no particular order, other than my memory as I wrote the list: 

  • My grandfather on my mother’s side died of colon cancer
  • My dad died of pancreatic cancer
  • My aunt on my mother’s side died of lung cancer
  • I have three close friends, all men, with bladder cancer
  • I have one close friend, a woman, with thyroid cancer
  • My neighbor one house to the north died of breast cancer
  • The daughter of a neighbor who lives across the street and three houses down to the north died of brain cancer
  • The son of a guy I used to work with at another company died of brain cancer
  • The wife of a guy I work with now survived cancer (I don’t know what kind)
  • My first cousin on my dad’s side survived breast cancer
  • My niece on my wife’s side survived cervical cancer
  • I have two close friends, both men, who survived skin cancer
  • The son of an old work source died of testicular cancer
  • An old work source of mine died of liver cancer
  • The grandson of my first cousin on my dad’s side survived leukemia
  • An old boss of mine died of leukemia
  • I have a first cousin on my dad’s side with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • I have a close friend whose daughter has breast cancer

If I had more time and I stretch the timeline, I’m sure I could add more names to the list if not double the number of people who have been diagnosed with this terrible disease.  

What’s my point? I don’t really have a point other than that the list helps explain why I throw up a bit in my mouth when I hear about cancer cases decreasing and cancer survival rates increasing. Really? That may be true statistically in the metaverse, but it’s not true in reality in my universe. I bet it’s not true in your universe, either.  

The next time someone you know is diagnosed with cancer or dies from cancer make your own cancer roll. I’m guessing it will be a lot longer than you think. Then think of the billions of dollars we spend each year on cancer research and on oncology care. What are we getting for our money? I think that’s a fair question. Outcomes matter. 

Thanks for reading.

About the Author

David Burda

David Burda began covering healthcare in 1983 and hasn’t stopped since. Dave writes this monthly column “Burda on Healthcare,” contributes weekly blog posts, manages our weekly newsletter 4sight Friday, and hosts our weekly Roundup podcast. Dave believes that healthcare is a business like any other business, and customers — patients — are king. If you do what’s right for patients, good business results will follow.

Dave’s personnel experiences with the healthcare system both as a patient and family caregiver have shaped his point of view. It’s also been shaped by covering the industry for 40 years as a reporter and editor. He worked at Modern Healthcare for 25 years, the last 11 as editor.

Prior to Modern Healthcare, he did stints at the American Medical Record Association (now AHIMA) and the American Hospital Association. After Modern Healthcare, he wrote a monthly column for Twin Cities Business explaining healthcare trends to a business audience, and he developed and executed content marketing plans for leading healthcare corporations as the editorial director for healthcare strategies at MSP Communications.

When he’s not reading and writing about healthcare, Dave spends his time riding the trails of DuPage County, IL, on his bike, tending his vegetable garden and daydreaming about being a lobster fisherman in Maine. He lives in Wheaton, IL, with his lovely wife of 40 years and his three children, none of whom want to be journalists or lobster fishermen.

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