Written by: Peter Minkoff
For anyone who has personally struggled with cancer or knows someone whose life has changed drastically due to the illness, the stress and turmoil of it all can be devastating. What we don’t know about cancer greatly surpasses what we do know, but every year, the greatest scientific minds make great strides towards more effective, personalized treatment options. Add to that, screening and prevention have become a top priority for most medical experts, while the human aspect of caring for someone with cancer has earned an even greater spotlight.
Curing cancer and making sure we have the necessary technology to spot cancer in time is a priority for most research institutions around the world, and humanity’s greatest challenge. So, where are we on the road to curing cancer? What are some of the latest discoveries that might help us reach our goals? Here, we’ll discuss a few of the most promising solutions as well as cancer care opportunities for those struggling with cancer at present.
Advanced screening to boost prevention
Early detection can help boost the longevity of each cancer patient and enhance their capacity to recover completely with the right treatment. Since fighting cancer is a battle against time, the sooner you’re able to get a diagnosis or assess your risk of cancer based on your family history and genetic makeup, the easier it becomes for doctors to prescribe the most potent treatment and increase your odds of survival.
While the main goal might be to cure cancer completely, precise and advanced screening methods are a step in the right direction to help those who are at risk already. Sometimes even those regular annual checkups with your dermatologist or gynecologist can make a difference in spotting early signs of cancer as opposed to allowing it to advance. Thanks to modern technology and tests, we have the capability to test early and monitor our health for years.
Focus on emotional support
The emotional stress and psychological aspect of dealing with the diagnosis can be overwhelming and cause a variety of other accompanying health issues such as depression, anxiety, and other stress-induced illnesses. Modern-day treatments no longer focus solely on the medical and clinical aspect of cancer, but they take the patient’s mental and emotional wellbeing into account to elevate their quality of life, happiness, overall resilience, and thus their chances of survival.
With the aim to help patients on that emotional and practical level, medical professionals often advise patients to find a reputable cancer fund that offers support and guidance. As a result, entire networks of local organizations and support groups arise to enable holistic treatment for each patient beyond the physical illness alone.
Unlike existing chemotherapy that helps kill cancerous cells, but also causes damage to healthy cells in the process, cancer vaccines show great promise in helping your own immune system tackle the cancerous tissue.
What makes this approach so unique is that it’s patient-specific, or rather, cancer-specific, and it uses our own T cells to eliminate the mutated cells and heal the patient in the process. Some vaccines such as HPV vaccines enable cancer prevention for virus-caused cancers such as cervical cancer – so vaccines in the field of cancer treatment remain a great opportunity with plenty of room for improvement and advancement.
CRISPR gene editing
Although cancer is a complex issue and there are intricate underlying mechanisms at work to form cancer in our cells, the simplest way to explain cancer is that it causes changes in our DNA and thus mutates our cells. Scientists have then invented a gene-editing method called CRISPR designed to help deactivate faulty genes and spot cancer mutations. Of course, this is an oversimplified explanation of a complex mechanism, but the methodology has widespread use in medicine to help treat disease.
Still work in progress, CRISPR shows tremendous potential in the field of cancer research and treatment, so numerous laboratories are using this technique to find even more effective solutions. The use of CRISPR in humans is still in its infancy, so we have yet to see its full potential in terms of gene-editing to remove mutated cells that form cancer.
Medicine and technology work hand in hand to come up with innovative solutions to treat cancer, to effectively diagnose it in its earliest stages (if not even sooner), and to provide the most potent treatment and care for each individual patient. Thanks to such efforts, millions of people will have better treatment opportunities and more refined, personalized care through this difficult journey.