One of the shocking reveals in the second to last episode of “Mad Men,” the long running series about 1960s-era advertising men and the women who love them, concerned Betty Draper Francis’ diagnosis of terminal lung cancer, which had spread to the bones. The diagnosis could have been expected for the character, depicted in the series as a chain smoker.
Health Magazine consulted with some modern doctors about Betty’s situation. The sad news is that Betty has about six to seven months to live, given how oncology was practiced in 1970. The even sadder news is that her likely lifespan would only be a year if she had gotten the same diagnosis in 2015. To be sure, certain chemotherapies exist in 2015 that were not available in 1970. Oral therapies that target certain types of lung cancer and may expand the lifespan of the patient considerably are also available.
The good news is that upcoming advances in immunotherapy have the potential to positively affect the survival rates of lung cancer patients. The idea is to use the body’s immune system to combat the cancer, searching out and destroying the tumors. This kind of therapy will likely be effective in ensuring that the cancer does not recur after going into remission.
One scene in the episode has proven infuriating to modern audiences. It occurs when the doctor describes to Betty’s husband what is in store for her in a cold, clinical way as Betty listens with no doubt mounting horror. This kind of consultation, where a wife was involved, was standard practice in medicine of the time but is no longer the case in the modern era.