Presented at the conference The Challenge of Breast Cancer
Organized by "The Lancet" in Brugge, Belgium, 1994.
(The Lancet vol. 343,
1085, 1994)

The cancer survival report No. 5 (1) describes survival of 3369 patients
with regional breast cancer diagnosed during the years 1950-1954. Treatment
consisted of mastectomy with or without irradiation.
The figure above depicts two important phenomena:

1) From the third year an on the hazard rate declines, and the chances of
the patient improve from year to year. The longer she lives the better her
chances to survive.

2) 24% of patients with regional disease survived 20 years. Most of the time
they were in remission and appeared healthy. Since ultimately dying from
their disease, retrospectively we may conclude that all carried undetected
micro metastases, and yet the hazard rate declined. Some carried metastasis
for at least 19 years.

Take a woman that lived with micro metastasis that long. During this
prolonged remission her organism apparently "knew" how to live with, and
adapt to micro metastasis. The nature of this "force of adaptation" is still
unknown. Suppose medicine could harness it for another 20 years, cancer
would turn into a benign disease.


1. Axtell LM, Ardyce J, Asire MS, Meyers MH. Cancer patient survival report
No.5 DHEW Publ No. (NIH) 77-992,1976.