Cancer Awareness, Prevention and Treatment: Technology and Resources
March 15, 2022 • April Davis (PointClear Solutions)
5 Min Read
Most of us have someone in our inner circle who has encountered the dreaded C-word, cancer. From just my singular life experience, I have had it affect my otherwise healthy community in my cousin, uncle, aunt, next door neighbor, father-in-law and had it take the life of my late mother-in-law. We all unfortunately likely have a story (or stories) to tell about how the disease has changed our lives and families.
On the heels of National Cancer Awareness month last month, let’s consider how we can all join together to help fight this disease while also reflecting on what modern healthcare advances and technologies have made prevention, detection and cures more prevalent and hopeful for the future.
From our own health habits, to genetic testing, to routine cancer screenings, to helping raise awareness, education and funding for research – we all have an impactful role we can play.
Want to see a few examples?
The American Association for Cancer Research states, “Research has shown that more than 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed and nearly half of all deaths from cancer in the United States can be attributed to preventable causes – things like smoking, excess body weight, physical inactivity, and excessive exposure to the sun.”1 With Spring weather upon us encouraging so many to start or revive healthy habits, can we all agree to move our bodies more (if you are physically able), eat less processed foods and more fruits and vegetables, stay away from smoking and wear our sunscreen? (As someone who has dealt with skin cancer first hand in my 20’s, I can personally also attest to the importance of the last suggestion.)
With many still working from home, it has made some of these lifestyle changes even more accessible. Instead of sitting at your desk to take a conference call or when trying to brainstorm a solution to a problem, try walking around the block for 15-20 minutes, with sunscreen on. It’s never too late to consider working towards making decisions that can help improve your health for you, your family and community.
Utilizing Your Personal Tech for Good
Thankfully there are countless wearable and remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices and apps to track your health stats and healthy habits along the way. From heart rate monitors, to fitness trackers, to blood pressure technology, to movement sensors and so much more, keeping tabs on your health while outside the healthcare setting has never been more accessible. Many health plans and even employers offer portals for health coaching and online nutrition resources and incentives to participate for the entire family.
Additionally, with the use of technology and even social media, spreading the word on the importance of cancer prevention and education has never been easier. If you come across recent research, have signed up for a walk/run to raise money for cancer research, etc. share the information with your online networks. From breast to cervical to prostate to lung to colorectal cancer and melanoma, there are also countless online quizzes, calculators and assessments that can help guide discovery of cancer risk. These screening tests may be utilized to help find cancer signs ahead of significant symptoms to better equip healthcare consumers to know their risk and when they should be seeing their doctor.
As always, if something doesn’t feel or look right, experts suggest making an appointment with a primary care physician right away. Early detection is one of the biggest key factors in treating the disease. The American Cancer Society also offers plentiful resources from screenings to prevention to treatment, support and research. Regular check-ups and age appropriate in-person screening tests can help guide you to know what next steps should be taken in your healthcare journey.
Mental Aspect of a Physical Disease
As the mental toll of a sickness can take a significant toll on the patient and their family and care givers, online and in-person cancer support groups can be a beneficial tool for all battling the disease. These groups can help with emotional support, practical tips, guidance to help with quality of life during treatment and next steps for remission and survivorship2. There are diverse groups that focus on specific types of cancer, survivorship, caregivers and more. In fact, just one of the many organizations called CancerCare has 100 types of support groups available. From local Facebook cancer groups to My LifeLine to ACS’s Cancer Survivors Network to CancerConnect and countless others, there are abundant options for connecting online with others who are in a similar journey to get the help and support needed to help with the mental component of dealing with cancer.
Screenings and Diagnosis
Survival for patients with one of the eight most common cancers is three times higher if they are diagnosed early, according to Cancer Research UK.3 The earlier the detection, the better the chances of beating the disease.
At a high level, the National Cancer Institute recommends cancer screenings for breast, cervical, colorectal and lung, depending on demographic groups. For those that might be deemed at risk for other cancers, a list of other possible screenings can be found here.
When a symptom or routine test might suggest the presence of cancer, processes from lab tests to biopsies to imaging can help a physician make a diagnosis. From blood count to blood proteins to certain chemicals to DNA, blood samples can be tested in labs for indications of cancer. A biopsy, removing tissue to examine under a microscope, is one of the essential ways that cancer can be diagnosed. To learn more about types of biopsies and the procedure, visit cancer.net.
Innovative Technologies to Help
Beyond routine screenings, from AI to robotic surgery to telehealth to robotics and more, countless technologies are progressively moving the needle against cancer.4 As AI is helpful at finding patterns in big amounts of data, it can be used on everything from adapting accurate radiation treatments to likelihood of certain cancers in a certain population to targeted, personalized treatments, and more. While most cancer care is still needed in-person, telehealth has made great advances during the pandemic by allowing patients recovering from treatment to do virtual care visits, offering additional access to clinical trials and even in-home chemotherapy.
As chemo and radioactivation are usually primary treatments for many cancers, there are significant advances and studies to help personalize treatment options. One such technology uses a sample of a patient’s tumor to test the cells with chemo drugs to see which treatments are the most effective.5 Using the knowledge from this technology’s findings physicians can better develop a treatment plan catered to what will more likely work for their specific cancer. This helps save the patient both unnecessary medications, treatments and costs – which is beneficial for all involved.
Robotic technology can also aide in cancer treatment by helping surgeons reach areas in the body that would otherwise require larger incisions and longer recoveries. What would once have required a potential lengthy hospital stay, using robotics can be more considered minimally invasive, shortening stays so patients can go to the comfort of their own homes to recover.6 (Thereby also freeing up costs for patients and providers and freeing up hospital space for other sick patients who need the healthcare resources.)
With modern day technologies specialized physicians can better tailor treatment plans catered to a specific individual’s needs with the hopes of a better treatment experience and ultimately cure.
From pain management to measuring markers at home to sensors to imaging devices to targeted therapies, there are plentiful innovative technologies on the horizon for cancer prevention and treatment.7 The future looks much brighter helping move cancer to more of a manageable, curable condition.
While I am no cancer or clinical guru by far, I have felt the impact of the disease and how it affects families from a young age. While this article did not even begin to scratch the surface of all the amazing work being down by brilliant researchers, physicians, medical schools, tech companies and those fighting the disease first-hand, I hope it provided some high-level information, some motivation and fresh perspective that there are lots of valuable resources, technologies and people out there helping in the fight against this disease. And with modern technological advances and innovations, the capabilities and tools to fight cancer will only continue to expand.
If you have an idea for an innovative cancer technology or if your company is considering expanding its tools to help in cancer research, advocacy, prevention, treatment or survivorship and you don’t have the in-house tools to build out the project, contact us. We’re here to help. We’re all in this together.
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