How high tech research is helping in the fight against cancer
Cancer was once the disease that most people believed had a terminal outcome, but thanks to great strides in medical research, this is no longer the case. People suffering with certain cancers now often have the chance to live much longer than before and to have a greater quality of life.
Cancer statistics were not collected before the 1970s, but based on those numbers, survival rates for some of the most common cancers, namely breast and bowel cancer, has doubled. There are however, some cancers, such as pancreatic and lung cancer, that are still proving challenging for cancer research centers in terms of effective treatments.
Better cancer outcomes are, of course, due to advancements in science. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy have been the usual treatments for cancer, but now there is another type of therapy: proton therapy. Proton therapy is an evolution of radiotherapy, but where radiotherapy works by focusing a beam of radiation upon the tumor and carries on past it and through the rest of the body, proton therapy stops once it has hit the tumor, causing far less damage to the surrounding tissue.
Early detection and diagnosis is a key factor in cancer survival rates. The sooner a cancer is detected, the more effective the treatment for it will be. Better understanding regarding how different cancers are created and progress have aided treatment as well, so that doctors now know that they are caused by faulty genes, genes that may be inherited or may otherwise develop during the lifetime, perhaps as a result of lifestyle choices, such as smoking or overeating. Screening programs for breast, cervical and bowel cancer have made it easier to catch cancers earlier. These screening programs have been in operation for some years and similar programs for other cancers, such as throat and ovarian cancer, are currently being researched.
Surgery has also moved on. It was once thought that the best practice to deal with a cancerous tumor was to remove it altogether, sometimes with the removal of surrounding healthy tissue, but surgeons are now operating using keyhole surgery, working on smaller areas that are less damaging to the body. Research suggests that breast cancer surgery is likely to be far less extensive than previously, thereby aiding recovery and having a less detrimental emotional effect upon the patient.
Research into post-operative aftercare, which is examined on the Curie Institute website, is also thought to play a significant part in a cancer patient’s recovery.
Of course, for medical science to continue to progress in this way, money is needed to fund research projects, like that carried out by the Curie Institute. Any medical research is expensive, in the past often running into the billions of dollars, but due to highly advanced computers, this cost has come down significantly. Much cancer research is now being directed at gene sequencing technology because this is where the problem seems to lie.
The computer revolution has enhanced much of our daily lives and it now looks likely that computers and technology will provide the solution to making cancer less of a threat and not the monster it is now.