Significant Advances in the Fight against Cancer
In recent years, advances have been incorporated that have helped improve the prognosis and quality of life of many patients.
In recent years, medicine has made important advances in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients, a disease that can affect different parts of the body and is one of the leading causes of death around the world.
According to the latest figures published by the World Health Organization, WHO, in 2012 there were 14 million new cases and 8.2 million deaths related to this pathology.
The good news is that, in recent years, medical advances in this field have improved the prognosis and quality of life of many patients.
Dr. Felipe Capdeville, Head of the Oncology Department at Clínica Alemana, explains that technologies, such as PET-CT, have been incorporated to diagnosis; this exam provides a complete picture of the body and shows areas where a malignant tumor might be located. Another advance - the specialist specifies - is the contribution of endosonographies in gastric and pancreatic cancer, as well as the introduction of prostate biopsy by fusion, among other studies that have changed the way of detecting and identifying the stage of the illness.
What's new in the treatment
In the early stages, surgery remains the most appropriate therapeutic alternative in most malignant tumors. In this sense, minimally invasive procedures, such as laparoscopy and robotic surgery, have meant a great advance, since they reduce the risk of complications and allow for a much faster recovery.
In the past few years, new treatment options have become available, which, despite being recent, have already shown very good results. This is the case of immunotherapy, increasingly used in patients with lung, bladder, kidney cancer and melanoma. Drugs are administered that boost the patient's own immune cells in order to attack the tumor, in order to control its growth and eventually eliminate it.
Personalized medicine has also impacted the treatment of different types of cancer. Specific types of tumors can be identified based on molecular biology, and their response to certain drugs and radiotherapy can be studied in order to gradually create a targeted and individualized treatment for each patient.
Another advance is intraperitoneal chemotherapy, which is used especially in digestive and gynecological cancer. Clínica Alemana has just implemented this sophisticated treatment that allows patients to be treated in more advanced stages of the disease. Regarding the application of this therapy, Dr. Capdeville explains that “is extracted through surgery, the same surgical procedure is used to perform a chemotherapy infusion into the peritoneal cavity, in order for the drug to act more efficiently in tumors affecting this area".
On the other hand, one of the main advances in radiotherapy is the incorporation of scanners in the treatment room; this helps irradiate the affected area with much greater effectiveness and accuracy, i.e., with lesser risk of affecting surrounding areas. This technology is known as IGRT (Image Guided Radiotherapy) and Clínica Alemana pioneered the implementation of this technology in Chile eight years ago. Moreover, the institution maintains high-quality standards, regularly validated by the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), an international agency of which it has been a member since 2013.
For the more advanced stages of the disease, Clínica Alemana has implemented the Comprehensive Palliative Oncology Care Program, focused on the interdisciplinary management for the control of pain and other symptoms, while providing emotional and psychological support to patients and their families.
At present, Clínica Alemana has 12 multidisciplinary oncology committees, in order to evaluate all aspects involved in each particular case and make the most appropriate decision regarding the treatment to be followed.
How to prevent
According to the WHO, more than 30% of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying or avoiding risk factors such as:
- Excess weight or obesity
- Insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables
- Physical inactivity
- Intake of alcoholic beverages
- Ionizing and non-ionizing radiation
- Urban air pollution
- Household smoke generated by the burning of solid fuels.