Cancer is a devastating disease affecting hundreds of thousands of lives. The world health organization states, globally, about 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer. In low and middle-income countries, 70 % of deaths are from cancer. The data also reveals that late-stage presentation and inaccessible diagnosis and treatment are common.
Traditional Cancer Treatments
There are many types of cancer treatments depending on the type of cancer and stage. Moreover, most people receive a combination of treatments including surgery with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In surgery, cancer is removed from the body whereas in radiation therapy high doses of radiation are used to kill cancer cells. While in chemotherapy, drugs kill cancer cells. However, chemotherapy or radiation is effective in only a subset of the patient population. Another class of treatment that has paved a way to effective therapies is immunotherapy. In immunotherapy, the patient’s immune system is harnessed to fight cancer.
The Advent of Precision Medicine
Conventional treatment sometimes fails due to disease heterogeneity. Tumors can express different proteins and it may vary patient to patient due to underlying genetic causes. This inherent variability of cancer led to the field of precision medicine. In this approach, doctors use information from genetic tests. Furthermore, in some cases precision medicine makes a more accurate diagnosis and improves treatment. Also, this approach helps patients make decisions regarding healthy habits, earlier screening tests, and other steps towards prevention.
Precision medicine works on the effects of certain gene mutations. Cancers occur due to genetic change or mutation of some kind. Depending on the type of mutation, a person more likely to develop certain cancer. Doctors use precision medicine to identify who might be at high risk of cancer. Also, to find certain cancers early. Moreover, precision medicine helps to diagnose a specific type of cancer correctly.
Experts believe precision medicine could lower the treatment costs while guiding doctors in choosing the right tests. Therefore, patients can avoid treatments that are not effective to them.
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