Cancer is the name given to a group of related illnesses. There are many different types of cancer, but what all these illnesses have in common is their nature. On all types of cancer, abnormal cells start multiplying non stop and spreading to the surrounding areas of our body. This uncontrolled multiplication can result in tumors, which can be really dangerous for our health. Thankfully, science has advanced on their research about this illness and new treatments are being developed so we can fight and win this battle.
Recent advances on the battle against cancer
Cancer is a disease that has expreaded all across the globe, making every person a potential victim of this illness. It has already become the commonest cause of death in developed countries like the UK. However, the survival rate of cancer in the UK is significantly lower when compared to other European countries like Finland or Holland. Thankfully, recent advances in oncology have improved our chances against cancer after multiple clinical trials. Down below you will be able to find a list with the most significant advances in oncology on the recent years.
One of the most significant improvements on the battle against cancer comes from the hands of multidisciplinary treatment teams. A few years ago, surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists would compete for gaining patients, affecting greatly to the treatment the patient received in the end and decreasing their chances of survival. However, this situation improved after the creation of multidisciplinary treatment teams, where these experts would coordinate their effort in order to offer their expertise and find the best treatment for their patients. This influenced greatly the way cancer is now diagnosed and treated, as well as the total number of patients that manage to recover.
The role of the practitioner
The first contact the cancer patient has with the illness comes by the hand of their practitioner. The practitioner is often the person to inform them about their illness and the possible alternatives they have on their battle against cancer. Because of this, it is very important that the practitioners have all the proper information regarding the latest treatments so they can assist the patient better. It is also very important that they keep a close relation with the multidisciplinary treatment teams in order to refer the patients to them as quickly as possible. Practitioners and multidisciplinary treatment teams should also work together in informing the patient and their families of the goals of every treatment in order to find the most suitable one for each case.
The national protocols
The use of drug treatments has proven highly successful on patients with metastatic cancer. A good example can be seen on children, where intensive and complex treatments can remove the illness completely in 60% of the cases. These treatments could be achieved thanks to the protocols settled on a national scale and the international cooperation between study agencies. Thanks to the cooperation between different clinical trials, now it is possible to make intensive treatments and adjust them properly as the illness progresses over the years.
Although drug treatments on children have proven to be highly effective, these results are differents for adults. Drug treatments are highly effective on adults with germ cell tumors, lymphoma and certain types of acute leukaemia. However, in adults where the tumour has already metastasized, this type of treatment only helps extending their average survival for a couple of months. This means that this treatment should be used only as a palliation method and patients should not rely fully on it for their survival. Nevertheless, the use of drugs can at least assist the patients with their pain.
The use of adjuvant therapy has proven highly effective on patients with large bowel and breast cancers. The adjuvant treatment is provided after the surgical resection, always managed by the multidisciplinary treatment teams. Chemotherapy after surgery for these types of cancers is used each day more and more.
The structure of the multidisciplinary treatment teams
Traditionally, multidisciplinary treatment teams are conformed by a surgeon, a radiation oncologist and a medical oncologist. However, the addition of experts like specialist pathologist or palliative physician could be of considerable value for the insight they can provide to the multidisciplinary treatment teams. Teams with a wider variety of members that work with good communication and respect have been proven to be more successful helping their patients.
Clinical trials are needed in order to help achieve new treatments against cancer. However, most of these trials are often sponsored by pharmaceutical companies and their goals can often differ with those of doctors and patients. Clinical trials also face the problem of being too expensive and having problems finding patients and doctors that want to be involved in them.
Having access to the help of professionals
As we have previously discussed, having access to a multidisciplinary treatment team is key when it comes to receiving oncological treatment. Cancer is a very serious illness and should always be approached with the higher level of respect, always looking out for the help of only the best professionals in the field.
Many multidisciplinary treatment teams operate on their own clinics, offering multiple treatments to their patients there. The oncological treatments you could receive in one of these clinics include:
- External radiotherapy, using different linear accelerators for a wide variety of different techniques, such as the conformal 3D radiotherapy or the SBRT.
- Intraoperative radiotherapy for a very precise and fast intervention on the tumour.
- High dose rate HDR brachytherapy, commonly used on the fight against prostate cancer.
- Brachytherapy with encapsulated radioactive sources, used to treat prostate cancer without damaging the healthy tissues.
- Ophthalmic brachytherapy, which uses radioactive lenses in the eyes for a couple of days.
Receiving these treatments on a clinic from the hands of multidisciplinary treatment teams will help you avoid the waiting queues of the hospitals and approach your illness in a faster and more effective way.