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Editorials |

The Definition of Survival

Robert L. Thurer, MD, FCCP (Boston, MA)
Author and Funding Information

Dr. Thurer is affiliated with the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School.

Correspondence to: Robert L. Thurer, MD, FCCP, Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Ave, Boston, MA 02212-5400; e-mail: rthurer@bidmc.harvard.edu



Chest. 1999;116(3):593-594. doi:10.1378/chest.116.3.593
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Extract

Physicians, surgeons, and other health professionals often use survival data to guide the treatment of patients with cancer. Such data (especially when stratified by stage and cell type) allow the evaluation of competing therapies and help patients gain a perspective on their illness. In most instances, a statistical discussion between patients and caregivers occurs around the time of diagnosis, and cumulative survival data are cited. However, as the course of a patient’s disease unfolds, information related to the patient’s prognosis following an initial period of survival becomes more appropriate. In this issue of CHEST (see page 697), Merrill and colleagues provide us with such“ conditional” survival data for patients with lung cancer. From their analysis of data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute, one can predict, for example, the likelihood that a patient who presents for 2-year follow-up after lobectomy for early stage lung cancer will survive an additional 5 years. Clearly, such information allows for a more enlightened evaluation and discussion. It may also help determine how aggressively to intervene in other health problems.


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