Cancer is a scary word. There are millions of reasons for this: the lives of all those who lost their battles to cancer in the past. Despite the immeasurable losses of family, friends and neighbors throughout the world, mankind has not given up hope. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Tens of thousands of doctors over the decades have contributed countless hours to research and treatment in the fight against cancer. Much of this was due in part to an unprecedented legislation in our country not too long ago.
In December of 1971, then president Richard Nixon confirmed what is now called the “war on cancer”. Addressing a national audience, the president called for the same determination of concentrated effort demonstrated by NASA when it put a man on the Moon, to be turned towards defeating the disease.
A new legislation was enacted called the National Cancer Act of 1971. From that day forward, the focus and hard work of many people has helped to develop a variety of services and cures all with the same goal of saving lives and ultimately destroying this disease. What was initially at $100 million dollar dedication over 50 years ago has been multiplied to an astounding $100 billion. Despite cancer being ranked among some of the most costly medical treatments, the world has come a long way since 1971, and there are some incredible advances that have been made and should be celebrated.
Since the inception of the National Cancer Act of 1971, have cancer death rate has decreased by more than 25%, and the five-year survival statistics has gone up by nearly 36%. Despite these encouraging stats, we are far from being in the clear. More than 1.9 million Americans were projected to be diagnosed with the disease in 2022 being found in various systems of the body.
Most common among women is the all too familiar breast cancer, and in men, the prostate poses the highest risks. Overall, it was estimated that over 609,000 people would die of cancer in 2022. There are eight places in the body with the consistently highest effect on rate of death, Lung, prostate, colon, and pancreatic cancers being some of the more concerning.
Cancer has been shown to be more likely among women in their 50’s, as well as anyone between the ages of 60-80, and quite concerningly, 1in 2 men and 1 in 3 women are expected to be at risk of cancer. The disease is strongly linked to aging. Despite these sobering facts and no end in sight for the war, the fight for a cure is stronger than ever.
The medical community has an armory worth of weapons to employ against the disease— now near ten times the amount that it was back in 1971. From the myriad of screenings, like mammograms and colonoscopies, cancer is often being found much earlier and thus in stages which, when caught, drastically increase the likelihood of death.
This, in combination with new and emerging treatments paired with advances in modern technology is creating greater odds for survival. Here are some ways in which the cancer treatments available today — in combination with sound healthcare management — are far better, more effective and accessible to the public.
There are many people who, because of the prevalence of cancer rates historically and globally, seem to want to just accept that cancer is here to stay. Others, however, vigilant scientists, doctors, and activists who have lived through the battles themselves, are convinced that this is defeatable. Under this common cause, people are rallying continuously to try and re-educate the public’s perception about cancer.
A world without fear of cancer may not sound as important as an actual treatment, but when one considers the strength of will and power given back to the patients and health care workers whose efforts are constantly on edge of hopelessness, it is a powerful idea indeed. The link between emerging technologies and the persons who utilize them is crucial to the success of treatment in all cases.
The swiftly changing efficacies of modern medical devices, technology, and new research is dividing how and what treatments are offered, but the influx of patient-based AI services is creating new aspects of healthcare. The availability and flexibility of support for patients through telemedicine coupled with AI technologies like online assistants is helping to support doctors in their decision making, while the software needed to keep track of communication between offices and clinics streamlines administerial work. Every process comes back to help patients.
Pre-cancer Focus in Research
Nearly half of the US population will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, and that means knowing who is at the greatest risk for the disease is incredibly important. Recognizing this, clinicians are pushing to make pre-cancer screenings a priority. While much of the past education was spent towards patient education and cancer prevention like campaigns against smoking and wearing sunscreen, which is certainly important, a focus on preventative research is key.
By focusing on the identified high-risk populations, researchers can narrow in on the biomarkers found in those more susceptible cases to consider the efficacies of new diagnostic and intervention methods. It is here that many in the medical field feel that there is a great opportunity to create powerful future impacts.
Access to Screenings
The data has shown, the earlier action and treatment is taken against an emergent disease, the better the outcome for the patient. Before the pandemic threw the world into chaos, increased screenings and early diagnosis in patients caused notable decreases in cancer related deaths.
There was a sad, stunning decline in the accessibility for cancer screenings during the pandemic, with millions of people unable to receive adequate health care: The American Cancer Society reported that nearly 75% percent of people who were actively undergoing treatment when the shutdown happened stalled some part of care. This caused a backup not only of cases, but a renewed rise in death rates. This proves that access to screenings and consistent care is effective in every individual’s fight to survive.
Early Detection Technologies
Even though the world has seen impressive progress in the number and type of cancer treatment options in comparison to previous decades, it has been proven that the single biggest support to saving lives is through early detection. The survival rates for the top five types of cancers range from 4 -13 times higher when caught in Stage 1 rather than in Stage 4, therefore the need to improve screening and accurate diagnosis is imperative.
The good news is that there are already three new techniques which have been created to do just that. AI analysis of body scans helps to support both doctor and patient to read imaging; Liquid biopsies that can detect cancer signals being circulated in the body, and Synthetic biopsies.
Rather than seeking out and attempting to destroy the cancer cells present in the body, the disease is being forced into showing itself.
There are many types of procedures and drugs available today, and even more being studied for future approval and use. The type of treatment given should be given based upon informed consent which means that it is important to learn about what options are available to you and your loved ones.
By talking with multiple doctors and doing some digging anyone will be able to understand how to improve their chances of survival. There are “local” treatments such as surgery and radiation that are meant to focus their power on very specific parts of the body, and there are “systemic” treatments that work through the entire body. While not a comprehensive list, here are a few examples of treatment used today.
One of the more common treatments of cancer, radiation therapy uses high-energy particles like x-rays, gamma rays, and electron beams targeted against cancer cells to damage and destroy them. As our cells grow by dividing to form new cells that replace old ones, the same can be said for cancer cells.
Unfortunately, cancer cells grow and divide faster than normal, healthy cells. Radiation works by damaging the DNA present inside of the cancer cells and in doing so shatters the cells’ ability to multiply themselves in a body. While normal, healthy cells are affected during the use of radiation — which causes radiation sickness — in time, most cells recover and go back to working normally.
Immunotherapy is a form of treatment that seeks to use a person’s immune system to assist in the fighting off of cancer cells in the body. This is accomplished in a few ways. By stimulating the natural defenses of the immune system, it can work harder to track down and destroy cancer cells, or utilizing lab-based substances which mimic the immune responses of the body, ramping up the power of the body’s ability to defend itself.
Bone Marrow Transplants
Also known as a stem cell transplant, this procedure’s aim is to replace the bone marrow cells in an infected patient with healthy cells found in another person’s body. These stem cell transplants are utilized to help aid in the production and thus replacement of cells that have been destroyed by cancer or chemo and radiation therapies.
By harvesting stem cells from the bones of you or someone else, the bloodstream of someone else, or sometimes even the umbilical cord blood of newborns, these young hematopoietic stem cells are used to replenish a tired body and system. When injected into a sick person’s body, they help to keep the production of new blood cells at normal rates, helping to keep people alive.
Cancer is an all too common foe in the world that has wreaked havoc in millions of lives for generations, but with the onset of this “war on cancer” supported by funding and the determination of researchers, scientists, and medical professionals over the decades, hope is growing. Despite the unsettling statistics of persons who will be affected by cancer, the number of treatments and emergent technologies present today has made huge impacts in the effectiveness of care.
While there are many types of treatments and approaches to battling cancer, each technique serves its place. The combination of technologically aided research, screening, health care accessibility, and emergent innovative care is causing some professionals to declare that the defeat of cancer is inevitable.