I didn’t especially want to make a serious post about Steve Jobs. The outpouring of grief on Facebook and elsewhere has struck me as disingenuous bandwagon bullshit. Yes, he was a smart guy who by all accounts was a good person who loved his family. I can’t imagine anyone being happy over his death. But he wasn’t some figure who personally touched the hearts of us all. He was a good guy and it’s unfortunate that he died, but I don’t see why he deserves this particular level of grief from complete strangers.
That said, I do want to make a serious post about Jobs after reading this Skepticblog article:
Seven or eight years ago, the news broke that Steve Jobs had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but considering it a private matter, he delayed in informing Apple’s board, and Apple’s board delayed in informing the shareholders. So what. The only delay that really mattered was that Steve, it turned out, had been treating his pancreatic cancer with a special diet and other alternative therapies,
prescribed by his naturopath. (I can’t find the original source for this, so I’m striking the statement that his self-treatment by diet had beed (sic) recommended by a naturopath.)
Most pancreatic cancers are aggressive and always terminal, but Steve was lucky (if you can call it that) and had a rare form called an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor, which is actually quite treatable with excellent survival rates — if caught soon enough. The median survival is about a decade, but it depends on how soon it’s removed surgically. Steve caught his very early, and should have expected to survive much longer than a decade. Unfortunately Steve relied on a diet instead of early surgery. There is no evidence that diet has any effect on islet cell carcinoma. As he dieted for nine months, the tumor progressed, and took him from the high end to the low end of the survival rate.
Here are the facts: Steve Jobs had a treatable form of cancer with an expectation of living at least 8 years after removal of the tumor. In his case, he caught it very early plus he had access to the best doctors, so he should have expected to live over 10 years. But instead of getting it removed, he went on an alternative ‘medicine’ diet. He then failed to improve, possibly getting sicker, until he finally turned to the evidenced-based successes of real medicine. His surgery prolonged his life significantly, but damage was probably done.
And here are some more facts: There is a direct correlation between when pancreatic cancer is detected/removed and how long a patient will live. Jobs detected it early, but did not have it removed right away. We can’t say what’s what in his exact case, but we do know that if every person with his type of cancer followed his path – waiting 9 months before taking real action – survival rates would drop. That is, if people wait to treat their cancer, they will die earlier than if they seek out established medical treatment.
The only positive thing to take from all of this is that Jobs was a very private person. He never did interviews to talk about himself (only speaking to reporters and the public on behalf of Apple), so we can be thankful he never promoted any unproven cancer treatments. In fact, we can infer from his abandonment of his ‘alternative’ diet in favor of surgery and real medical care that he would be unlikely to promote such treatments were he still alive today.
Filed under: Pure bullshit | Tagged: Alternative Medicine, Naturopathy, Pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs | 3 Comments »