Keep in mind that statistics describe trends in large numbers of people. More meaningful statistics will separately describe trends of people with similarly characterized cases (for example, low risk cases have better statistical outcomes than high risk cases). Statistics cannot be used to predict what will actually happen to an individual.
Any specific individual is either 100% alive or 100% dead at any given time. What the statistics can meaningfully tell that one individual is how big of a “fight” they are in…a great big fight, a medium fight, or a little fight. People win and lose all three, and so it simply helps tell you what you fighting mind-set should be. It may also help guide you about the level of treatment risk you are willing to take.
Here’s how what I just described applies to the often-quoted overall survival (OS) rates. Take the example of a particularly aggressive cancer with a median OS of 8 months after reaching stage 4. It doesn’t mean that everyone dies at exactly 8 months…there is a distribution of various results which actually occur. Doctors use the median, rather than the mean (average) because the distribution of results across large numbers of people is skewed to the right, but in the past 50% of people with this disease died before 8 months, and 50% died after. Elderly, weak, frail, co-morbid people might have been among the first to die within months, maybe within weeks. Those who eat healthy and exercise, those who might be physiologically younger than their chronological age, are otherwise healthy, or have some other perhaps unknown variant influencing their outcome might generally describe those who tend to live longer than the median OS. Some of these live much longer which tends to extend the skew-ness of the distribution curve. See this sample distribution curve HERE.
When I see someone imply that statistics are meaningless, my quick conclusion is that they really don’t understand the statistics. Statistics do not tell you exactly what will happen to any particular one individual, but they tell you the "size of the fight."
Post Edited (James C.) : 3/31/2011 12:53:35 PM (GMT-6)
Post Edited (clocknut) : 3/31/2011 1:46:27 PM (GMT-6)