Cancer – many of us shudder when we hear the word. It’s the diagnosis you don’t want to receive when you have a health problem, and the latest cancer statistics are frightening indeed. According to the UICC, the disease causes over 7 million deaths each year. More than 11 million new cases are diagnosed worldwide annually.
Despite the scary statistics and notoriety of the disease, numerous advancements have been made in the field of oncology in recent years. Moreover, research is ongoing. In other words, cancer is no longer a death sentence in many cases, and healthcare professionals are getting better at detecting, treating, and preventing deadly cancers.
Here are 30 reassuring things you should know about cancer…
Genetic Testing Can Save Your Life
If you have cancer and your doctor hasn’t recommended genetic testing, then go ahead and ask to have it done. This can literally be a lifesaver, especially if there’s a family history of the disease.
Some people have an increased risk of cancers because they have an inherited gene fault or mutation. By identifying the mutation, patients can get the right treatment while the cancer is easier to treat.
Targeted Therapies Work
Thousands of genes reside in cancer cells. By deciphering these genes, scientists can determine which mutations are being carried, making it possible to match them up with the correct cancer drugs.
Targeted drug therapies are routinely used to treat lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, melanoma, and other cancers. Not everybody responds to them, but those that do typically respond very well.
It’s Important to Get Your Tumor Profile
All cancer patients should ask about getting their tumor profile. This can be the difference between success and failure when fighting cancer. It can also prevent a lot of unnecessary suffering during treatment.
There have been numerous cases where after failed chemotherapy attempts, patients went into remission once doctors sequenced tumor cells and found genetic mutations sensitive to particular drugs.
Liquid Biopsies May Soon Replace Needle Biopsies
A blood test has been developed that can identify biomarkers for various stage 1 cancers in the body. Utilizing the same technology that finds DNA at crime scenes may transform cancer screening.
While the test is already being explored at certain cancer centers, the goal is to eliminate the need for needle biopsies. Soon, a simple draw may be able to detect cancer before there are any symptoms.
The Immune System Can Be Strengthened to Kill Tumors
With cancer, malignant cells essentially turn off the immune system, but newly introduced immunotherapy drugs have proven incredibly effective at reactivating the immune system’s fighting T cells.
In recent clinical trials, thousands of stage 4 melanoma patients with life expectancies of between one and two years were given these new immunotherapy drugs. Three years later, 20 percent were still living.
Combining Drugs Improves Outcomes in Cancer Patients
After years of fighting the Big C, it has been found that administering combinations of cancer drugs work best for patients with most forms of the disease, reducing symptoms and increasing life expectancy.
Cancers can mutate around cancer-treating drugs. They can also easily become resistant to them. For this reason, medical professionals are using drug cocktails to treat cancers.
Many Chemo Treatments Do Not Cause Hair Loss
Just as there are different forms of cancer, there are different chemotherapies. Some cause hair loss, but many chemo treatments do not. It depends on the type of chemotherapy the patient receives.
A lot of us have certain perceptions of what cancer is like based on what we’ve seen or seen in movies. It’s worth noting, though, that filmmakers tend to focus on dramatic cancers for dramatic effect.
Chemotherapy Isn’t Always Debilitating
Again, there are different types of cancers and chemotherapy treatments, and they won’t always be incapacitating or have devastating side effects. Every circumstance and person is unique.
The fact is that many chemotherapies are very well tolerated by cancer patients and have subtle side effects, even when combined with surgery and radiation therapy to remove, kill, or damage cancer cells.
We Now Have Gadgets That Can Detect and Track Cancer
Wearable devices have become common for tracking heart rate, calorie intake, steps, etc. Now, scientists are propelling wearables and handheld gadgets into the realm of active cancer management.
Due to imaging advancements, we have tools that can track chemo progress, provide continual breast measurements, and more. There’s even a probe that tells surgeons if all cancer cells have been removed.
Viruses Can Aid in Fighting Cancer
That’s right, viruses. They can be injected into malignant tumors, making cancerous cells think they are infected. Consequently, the cells kill themselves or trigger the immune system to do the job.
The herpes virus can be used to treat melanoma. Polio can be used to fight brain cancers. Scientists are also working on epigenetics, which is a process that awakens ancient viruses embedded in our DNA.
Pap Tests to Detect Ovarian Cancer Are in the Works
Scientists have developed a test discovering genetic markers of ovarian and uterine cancers in cervical fluid from Pap smears. That means that in time, routine Pap tests may reveal a lot more information.
Considering that the above cancers kill tens of thousands of women yearly in the US alone, this is an exciting development. Research is still in its early stages, so we’ll have to wait a little longer.
There Are Chips That Detect Runaway Tumor Cells
Malignant cancers direct free-floating cells into the blood, forming tumors in other parts of the body. Experts have known this for a long time, but they haven’t been able to capture the cells until recently.
Thanks to technological advances, a device can now extract those cells for analysis. This is a major development because the spread of cancers causes death in most cancer patients.
Surgery Isn’t Always Your Best/Only Option
Cancer surgery is done to remove all or part of a cancerous tumor. However, surgical intervention isn’t always required, and sometimes less invasive treatments are more appropriate and/or equally beneficial.
Surgeons, though ethical, are financially motivated to recommend surgery. Therefore, patients should always consult both a surgeon and a medical oncologist, who can share treatment alternatives.
You’re Usually in Good Hands
For many oncologists and health providers involved in treating cancers, fighting the disease is personal. In fact, many doctors get into the field because they have lost a family member or friend to cancer.
What does this mean for cancer patients? It means that you will get quality treatment, in most cases, by motivated professionals who actually care about making a difference and getting you better.
You Can Access New Treatments Through Clinical Trials
C cancers often do not respond to conventional treatment methods, and clinical trials are the best way to get access to new treatments that could possibly treat your disease.
When you enroll in a clinical trial, you get the standard cancer treatment plus any new cancer treatments that may have shown positive results. One of these treatments may effectively cure your cancer.
It’s Best to Get Treated at a Cancer Center
Cancer centers provide access to experienced doctors and the latest medical technologies, treatments, medications, and trials. Also, some institutions specialize in treating certain types of cancer.
Specialized centers can provide the best possible care when you receive a cancer diagnosis. It’s especially important to be treated at a center if you’ve been diagnosed with a late-stage or incurable cancer.
Natural Treatments Can Be Helpful
Despite what you might have seen or heard, naturopathic remedies do not cure cancer. In some cases, these treatments can actually interfere with or hinder cancer treatments that could be effective.
The above being said, there are natural complementary therapies that can be helpful in individuals with some forms of cancer. These therapies include massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, and Reiki.
The Fight Against Cancer Continues
Unfortunately, many promising research projects that could produce effective treatments and cures for cancer do not get funded. Generally, governments aren’t investing enough in cancer research.
In spite of this shortage of funds, the cancer fight continues. Progress, although slow, is being made on a daily basis, and more private organizations are contributing to funding new projects.
Cancer Is Not a Single Disease
Cancer is not one disease. As a matter of fact, there are more than 100 unique cancers that affect humans, each of which can present as one of the dozens of genetic subtypes in different parts of the body.
This is positive, to some degree, as many types of cancers mean that there are a lot of potential cures and treatment options. That is, most patients have numerous options when facing a cancer diagnosis.
Knowing Your Family History Can Help A lot
Because up to 10 percent of all cancers are inherited, learning your family cancer history can determine the future of your health. It can prompt you to do genetic tests that could save your life.
Modern genetic testing can screen for all known hereditary cancer genes. If genetic tests reveal that you are at risk, you can take educated steps that can keep you from developing cancer.
Smoking Is a Major Cause of Cancer
Cigarette smoking causes heart disease, respiratory problems, and at least 15 types of cancer. It is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of lung cancers, the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
The good news is that lung cancer is the most preventable form of cancer. People who don’t smoke have a much lower risk of developing lung cancer, and smokers who quit reduce their risk significantly.
Unhealthy Eating Is Another Major Cancer Cause
A poor diet can increase your risk of developing cancers considerably. Being overweight or obese is one of the biggest risk factors for cancer. Plus, consuming certain foods increases the risk even more.
Slash your cancer risk by reducing your consumption of saturated fat, red meat, and charbroiled and deep-fried foods. Also, increase your consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Giving up This One Food Can Make a Huge Difference
If you’re serious about preventing cancer, then stop eating refined sugar, or at least minimize consumption thereof. Diabetics and people who are overweight are much more likely to develop deadly cancers.
Sugar spikes insulin levels. This activates enzymes known as PI 3-kinases, which scientists have discovered play a major role in human cancers. Refined sugars are commonly found in processed foods.
Not Drinking Alcohol Lowers Your Cancer Risk
Consuming low levels of certain types of alcohol is said to be beneficial. However, the most recent research suggests that the associated health risks outweigh any protective effects of alcohol.
Cancer-causing chemicals are formed with the consumption of wine, beer, and spirits. Alcohol also increases the levels of hormones linked to cancer. The bottom line, not drinking reduces your cancer risk.
Exercise Lowers Your Risk of Cancer, Too
Exercise, especially when combined with a healthy diet, lowers the risk of cancer by keeping your weight in check, regulating your hormones and insulin, and strengthening your immune system.
In men and women who are already fighting cancer, exercise can improve the quality of life during cancer treatment. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily can boost health and alleviate symptoms.
Limiting Sun Exposure Is a Good Cancer Prevention Method
Sunlight causes the skin to produce vitamin D, which plays an important role in the body and offers many health benefits. Too much sun exposure is harmful, though. It can even cause skin cancer.
Skin cancer can be deadly. Luckily, it is preventable. You can prevent skin cancer by limiting sun exposure, avoiding the midday sun and tanning beds, and wearing sunscreen (SPF 30+) when outdoors.
Early Detection Increases Treatment Success
You’ve heard it before, or perhaps you haven’t: the earlier cancer is detected, the better your chances of successful treatment. Thus, it is important to get regular checks and not ignore health problems.
Those at higher risk for certain cancers can detect cancer early by learning the symptoms, and experts generally recommend annual screening tests for common cancers to men and women over 40.
Immunization Reduces the Risk of Certain Cancers
Hepatitis B increases your risk of developing cancer of the liver, while HPV (human papillomavirus) can cause cervical and genital cancers, as well as squamous cell cancers involving the neck and head.
Fortunately, you can get immunized against these viral infections, reducing your risk of developing associated cancers and preventing the nasty physical symptoms that the infections are known to cause.
Avoiding Risky Behaviors Can Prevent Cancer-Causing Infections
Behaviors such as sharing needles with other drug users and engaging in regular unprotected sex with multiple partners are the main causes of Hepatitis B, HPV, and other infections that can lead to cancer.
By avoiding or minimizing these risky behaviors (this may involve getting professional help for drug and sex addictions), one can reduce their risk of developing cancer, among many other health problems.
Aspirin May Decrease Cancer Risk for Some
Though the benefit has not been proven, men who take low-dose aspirin (or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) seem to have a lower risk of developing colon cancer and prostate cancer.
Aspirin, even in low doses, can cause gastric bleeding and other dangerous side effects. On the other hand, it may protect against cancer in those at the highest risk and stave off heart attacks and strokes.