I’m a neurosurgeon with a focus on treating brain cancer. I see about 200 people with malignant brain cancer each year. These patients face a dilemma that is both frustrating to me as a doctor and heart-breaking to them as a patient. Most believe that in today’s modern world of medicine, treatments are readily available for cancer when caught early. Most are shocked to find that, while this may be true for many cancers, brain cancer remains a lethal exception. The sad truth is that every one of my patients faces a terminal illness with survival measured in just 1-2 years. With few exceptions, it does not matter how young, or healthy, or optimistic the patient is, or how small the tumor is, or how aggressive we are in the treatment the disease. This is unacceptable.
My hope is that someday soon we will have effective treatments for brain cancer, treatments that will lead to meaningful 5-year survival rates. New research, much of it originating right here in Seattle, will be the key to transforming brain cancer from a terminal disease to a chronic disease.
Research has an important and tangible benefit in the lives of these patients. Research creates hope. It enables them to believe that we are working toward more effective treatments that will come to fruition in their lifetime. It has been my experience that this hope is as powerful a medicine as any surgery, chemotherapy or radiation that a patient will undergo.
Brain cancer is an orphaned disease in need of more community activism and advocacy. These extraordinary patients need our support and help. They are fighting a swift and aggressive battle against a lethal cancer every day of their lives. For one day, we can show them that we care as a community. That we stand beside them.
On Saturday, September 21, at the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk, we will bring the community together to generate and increase hope. The Walk was created by a group of dedicated patient volunteers and their families at the Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment who saw that brain cancer patients, no matter how surrounded by loved ones, often feel isolated and alone.
Patients walk away from the event feeling joy, community, and most importantly, a sense of hope. Hope for their future. This is my commitment to them. And it should be our shared commitment to the greater community. I can promise you, that if you take the time to open your hearts to these patients, to learn their stories, to see how we can bring hope to their lives, you will see the great value in supporting our cause. You can help as well. Mention this blog post to someone in your life today, and tell them that brain cancer patients need their help.