Recovery Technology: How Cancer Treatments Have Changed
By : Brooke Chaplan
Since the discovery of cancer cells, doctors have focused on destroying the malignant cells by some means or another. When cancerous cells invade healthy cells, the infection can suppress the immune system. The organs and tissues are deprived of oxygen, and the radical changes cause the cells to behave abnormally. As technology and medicine advances, so do the treatment methods for cancer.
Advancements in Surgical Treatments
In the early 1900’s, most doctors believed surgery could eradicate cancer. In recent years, doctors have discovered several less invasive treatment options. When surgery is unavoidable, the medical team will remove a small amount of tissue. Today, surgeons aim to remove tumors without damaging the healthy organs and nerves around them. Better, more precise surgical instruments means a better chance of getting a tumor out without damage.
Advancements in Oral and Intravenous Cancer Medications
Less than a century ago, doctors did not have cupboards stocked with medications. The advent of chemotherapy has paved the way for other cancer drugs that are still being used today. Some medications are used in conjunction with chemotherapy. The pharmaceutical industry has spent millions of dollars researching the effectiveness of new cancer medications. In the 21st century, cancer drugs have helped millions of people overcome the debilitating illness.
Linking Cancer and the Genome
In the last decade, scientists have made improvements in understanding the link between cancer and genetics. Genetic abnormalities can cause cells to produce defective proteins. Abnormalities in the epigenome are the precursor to many diseases. The faulty proteins do not function in the correct way. When the cells do not function properly, they can grow out of control and form tumors. In breast cancer, women who inherit the BRCA 1 gene have a 50% chance of developing cancer rather than the 12% chance of women who don’t. The Missouri Cancer Associates perform two to three genetic tests a month to help identify risk genes in patients. These preventative measures can mean faster treatments and better care if cancer does develop.
Customized Cancer Treatment Plans
In the past, most scientists were focused on removing cancerous tumors. Now, several cancer treatments can specifically target the molecules in cancer cells. In recent years, scientists have used immunotherapy to treat cancer. Doctors have successfully used hormone therapy to treat breast and prostate cancer. The treatments can be customized for each patient and the medications can be dispensed orally or intravenously. This means there are more options for patients, and a better chance at effectively stopping cancer in its tracks.
Cancer is a serious issue, and the treatments should always be handled in a delicate manner. Two patients might have the same type of cancer, but a team of doctors will design an individualized treatment plan. The patient may be sent to a cancer treatment center, and the medical specialist might recommend one or more treatment options. Early detection is important, but many people have survived aggressive forms of cancer in the later stages of the disease. Scientists are striving to have a clearer understanding of the mechanisms that cause abnormal cell growth.