What on earth does that logo mean, anyway?

The two red lines represent two imaginary “survival curves”. A survival curve represents the survival of a group of cancer patients over time. If you get into the technical literature you may see lots of these important curves. You may even stake your life on one.

Here are (almost) the same curves as the logo with explanatory labels:

The vertical (or Y) axis of the graph is the percentage of patients in the group surviving. The horizontal (or X) axis represents time, starting from the time of diagnosis, or the time that treatment starts. As time goes on, some of the patients die and the curve steps down each time this happens.

Note that each of these hypothetical curves flatten out at the ends. This is often seen in real survival curves, and it suggests that some patients in each of the two groups are cured or at least are long term survivors, though the odds of that are obviously much greater for the upper curve.

For much more on interpreting survival curves, see my articles in the Statistics Section.

Survival curves are about life, death, and statistics. It's scary stuff, the kind of thing that leaves the mouth dry and the heart pounding. Cancer is scary stuff.

But sometimes by finding the best treatment you can change what survival curve you are on. Perhaps these two survival curves represent the survival for a certain cancer with an old treatment and a new treatment that has just been developed. If so, then it is an image of hope! Perhaps these two curves even represent the survival of patients who go out and find the best possible treatment compared to patients who don't ask questions. Perhaps information is the "treatment" that makes the difference. Getting information can also be scary and risky - to learn more, read about the pros and cons of researching your cancer.

No matter what survival curve we are on statistically, we each have our own personal survival curve. At any given time, it is either 100% or 0%. If you are reading this, it is 100% right now! I hope your personal curve will be 100% extending many years into the future, no matter what the odds or the statistics. By getting onto the best overall curve you increase the chance that it will be so. My fondest hope is that the information in CancerGuide will help you to put yourself on the best possible survival curve.

Remember that whatever curve you are on, you could be one of the ones alive and well continuing off the end of the curve. If the curve is terrible - even if it reaches zero - remember that a new treatment can change the curve, and a curve based on a small group often does not include the exceptions. The curve I found when I was diagnosed with metastatic disease touched the zero at 54 months. I am now out well in excess of twice that and quite well. To see the real life survival curve I faced at diagnosis and how things changed dramatically for the better, see my statistical essay, "Postcards From Beyond the Zero".

This CancerGuide Page By Steve Dunn. © Steve Dunn
Page Created: 1999, Last Updated: August 5, 2004