Progress in Diagnosis and Treatment of Cancer Today
Did you know that approximately 17 people die every minute, worldwide, due to cancer?
With the help of the World Cancer Day, held every 4th of February, awareness about this disease has increased, enabling people to be better informed on how they can reduce their risks of contracting the disease and better informed on the treatments available. As a result, the world is in a better position than it was when cancer first became a global health concern. However, despite the efforts that have gone into raising awareness about cancer, it remains an epidemic taking the lives of over 8.5 million people every year, worldwide.
In 2018 alone, 9.6 million people died from cancer. That is why we cannot slacken off in the fight against this killer disease that affects everyone; young and old.
Last year, the theme focused on coming together to fight cancer. This year’s theme – “I Am and I Will” pays more attention to the individual and the power you have in reducing the impact of cancer on yourself, your loved ones and the world all together.
Cancer is a disease that in most cases takes a toll not only on an individual but on their family as well. This theme will for the next 3 years focus on encouraging individuals’ personal commitment and their power to make a difference in the future as far as the fight against cancer is concerned.
It aims at inspiring change and creating a long-lasting impact by growing the exposure and engagement of the public to create more opportunities to bring about global impact and awareness.
Because cancer is a major health concern worldwide, a lot of research has gone into finding better ways to fight the disease both in early diagnostics and prevention, and more effective treatment options.
Some of the new innovations that are used to find cancer in its early stages include:
- Fluid Biopsy: This is a blood test which involves taking a sample of blood and checking for cancer DNA that could be circulating in the blood. This test can pick up several different types of cancers while they are still in the early stage, enabling timely treatment that will help in saving lives.
- Biomarkers test: The body produces certain antibodies when cancer is present. Biomarkers test tests body fluids for these substances to determine whether a person has cancer.
- Genetic and genomic tests: These tests look for changes in genes that can help in determining the presence of cancer in the body. They can also help to determine how a tumour could, for instance, respond to treatment. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are some of the genes that can indicate a higher risk of certain cancers like ovarian cancer.
Diagnosing cancer in its early stage is important because:
- It enables timely treatment,
- It helps to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts on the body, and
- It is cheaper to treat it early than it is when the cancer has progressed or even spread to other organs.
Like most cancers that do not have exact causes, there are some risk factors that can increase a person’s chance of getting gallbladder cancer. These include:
1. Immunotherapy: This treatment basically focuses on helping the immune system to find and fight cancer cells. Some types of monoclonal antibodies are:
• Checkpoint inhibitors: These inhibitors are used to get rid of checkpoints that make it hard for the immune system to attack cancer cells.
• Monoclonal antibodies: These are basically man-made versions of antibodies produced by the immune system to find foreign cells in the body, including cancer cells.
• Cytokines: They are proteins that can boost the response of the immune system to cancer by controlling the growth of immune system cells.
2. Radiotherapy: This therapy uses high energy radio waves to destroy cancer cells in the body. The different forms of radiotherapy include:
• Proton therapy: Protons, which are positively charged particles, are used to destroy cancer cells without causing harm to healthy cells. That is why this treatment is used in treating tumours in sensitive areas of the body like the brain, liver and eye.
• Image -guided radiation therapy (IGRT): Just like the name suggests, this therapy involves using imaging scans like computerised tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to focus radiation beams to the specific area affected by the cancer.
• Stereotactic radiosurgery: This therapy involves administering high doses of radiation to a small area.
3. Targeted therapy: This therapy uses drugs such as Afatinib and Dabrafenib to block factors like blood, genes and proteins that enable cancer cells to grow.
4. Robot-Assisted surgery: Surgery is a major treatment option for cancer and specialists have found better ways to perform surgery. Using robotics to perform surgery causes less scarring and allows for faster recovery and less hospital stays.
It is hard to prevent a disease when you do not know what causes it. That is the case for most cancers. The main goal for cancer prevention is reducing the risk factors by living a healthy lifestyle through eating healthy, not smoking and doing physical activity, among other things. However, some cancers like cervical and oral cancers can be prevented by getting vaccinated against HPV (human papilloma virus) which is made up of several types, some of which can lead to cancer. Vaccines boost the immune system making it capable of responding to cancer in the body.
These inventions have come about as a result of actions by individuals, such as scientists, people who have agreed to go through clinical trials to determine whether these new inventions work, and institutions that have put their resources into doing more research on how to perform early diagnosis, on how to treat cancer more effectively and efficiently and on ways cancer can be prevented.
On this World Cancer Day, take the initiative to know how you can contribute towards the fight against cancer in reducing its impact on your loved ones, yourself and the entire world.