Opinion: Long term thinking

POSTED: 06/21/12 12:57 PM

We admit, it’s long term thinking but we’d still like to offer this reason for making the best of one’s school years. Cancer patients with a higher education often receive more far reaching medical treatment than patients with a lower education. The higher educated patients furthermore more often receive treatment that focuses on curing them. Altogether this gives cancer patients with a higher education better survival chances.

Mieke Aarts, an epidemiologist at the Integral cancer center in Amsterdam South examined the data of more than a quarter of a million cancer patients who attracted the disease between 1990 and 2008. She earned her degree on Tuesday at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.

Aarts says that higher educated patients probably receive better treatment because they are able to communicate better with their doctors. “When a doctor is sitting across from someone with a similar education he will probably explain more things. He is also more likely to give information about experimental treatments.”

Aarts discovered that higher educated patients sooner receive treatments that are not mainstream yet. “That is probably because they are more active collecting information. If they come up with a new treatment themselves, the doctor is maybe sooner prepared to apply it.”

Lower educated patients with prostate cancer receive more often hormone treatment and ordinary external radiation, while higher educated patients more often receive surgery and internal radiation.

Of the lower educated patients only 20 percent received surgery; among higher educated patients this was 30 percent. Just 11 percent of the lower educated patients received internal radiation treatment, against 18 percent among higher educated patients. The condition of the tumors among all these patients was comparable.

These differences add up to something that ought to pique the interest of everyone. The researcher found that after 10 years, 67 percent of the higher educated cancer patients was still alive. The percentage among lower educated patients was 44 percent. Even if the researchers took other factors into account, the survival chances of higher educated pattients remained better.

Aarts says that the unbalance is due to the difference in treatment. She notes that of all the higher educated men who attractred a form of cancer, fifty percent was still alive after five years, while among lower educated men only a third was still alive.

The research has touched a nerve with the Dutch Cancer Institute. It considers Aarts’ study solid, but notes at the same time that far reaching treatments are not always the best option. “Sometimes you have to slow down higher educated patients with their wishes. But this study tells us that we have to be even more alert on the question whether we inform lower educated patients sufficiently about their disease to enable them to take the best possible decision.”
And that is of course the crux of the matter. There must be a difference in the way higher and lower educated people process complicated information about (for instance) medical matters. If this leads to the results Aarts presented in her study, it feels like a strong argument to encourage kids to do their stinking best in the classroom.

That the pay-off may come much later in life seems however a stumbling block. That’s because children process complicated information in a different way than adults do. But if one smart kid picks up the message, there is already progress.

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Long term thinking by

Comments are closed.