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Why's My Friend Bothering to Have Chemo?


Updated: April 14, 2007

I read the Survival Rates for Stage 4 Malignant Melanoma and had a question. My friend has stage 4 melanoma that started as a spot on his back and spread to his lymph nodes, and then to his liver and stomach.

He is undergoing chemo and I believe interferon inpatient. He is 37 and very healthy otherwise. Why would the doctors want him to undergo all that chemo if he only has a few more months to live, considering that the cancer has spread to organs already? Thanks for your response. I really appreciate any info you have.

One thing you need to remember about statistics, is that they're generalizations. A lot of things can influence malignant melanoma survival. We know that some things tend to improve malignant melanoma survival rates, like a tumor diameter less than two centimeters or a tumor thickness less than two millimeters. There are other less-scientific things that help too, like a positive attitude and a strong support system. I would expect the fact that your friend is young and otherwise healthy would help, too.

So, please don't count him out simply because of statistics. We all tend to look at the numbers when given a diagnosis because we see numbers as facts. It's human nature to, when faced with the uncertainty of cancer, learn as much as we can about it and try to figure out how it's going to play out. But, it's impossible to predict, which is one of the reasons having cancer is such a humbling, distilling experience. For everyone involved.

Your friend has probably discussed his individual prognosis with his doctors. Oncologists tend to be pretty direct with their patients - to tell them up front Here's what we're up against. It's an important factor in choosing a treatment regimen. My advice is to ask your friend. Chances are he's thought a lot about balancing his chances for survival with his quality of life. Since he has chosen to receive treatment, there must be a reason.

Please remember that I am not a medical professional. I offer my input as a neighbor, a friend, sitting at the kitchen table talking about what's on your mind and trying to help if I can. This is not medical advice. Please don't consider it medical advice or pass it on to others as medical advice. Thanks.

  1. Barth, A. and Wanek, L.A. "Prognostic Factors in 1,521 Melanoma Patients with Distant Metastases." Journal of the American College of Surgeons 181.3 (Sep. 1995): 193-201. PubMed. 21 Jun. 2006 [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=7670677&dopt=Abstract].
  2. Blecker, D. and Abraham, S. "Melanoma in the Gastrointestinal Tract." The American Journal of Gastroenterology 94.12 (Dec. 1999) 3427-3433. PubMed. 21 Jun. 2006 [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=10606298&dopt=Abstract].
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