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Victories for Life

June 18, 2019
Shermian Woodhouse, M.D., M.P.H. Medical Director
Victories for Life

HOW NEW STRATEGIES IN CANCER TREATMENT, DIAGNOSIS, PREVENTION AND MORE ARE HELPING MORE PEOPLE SURVIVE

While we have not yet found a cure for cancer, we have to celebrate the fact that we’re doing better for our survivors. Nationally, the number of cancer survivors is increasing. Advances in areas such as treatment, prevention, screening, genetic testing and more are bringing powerful new approaches to our fight against cancer.

Here is a summary of some of the strategies that are helping to reduce the incidence of cancer. New developments in many disciplines are helping more people survive longer with a greater quality of life.
 

PREVENTION MAKES A DIFFERENCE
In terms of prevention, an increase in the availability of colonoscopy has made it possible to detect polyps that could have turned into cancer had they not been detected early.

Lung cancer screening is showing promise in supporting early detection, especially for select high-risk patients between 55 to 74 years old with a history of significant long term smoking, who are current smokers, or who have quit in the past 15 years.
 

ADVANCEMENTS IN IMAGING
Improvements in imaging, such has mammography, have improved over time. Imaging techniques have moved from analog to more precise and versatile digital methods. Today, we even have 3D mammography called, tomosynthesis. We now know that, for women with dense breasts, adding whole breast ultrasound can increase the detection rate of breast cancer.
 

GENETIC TESTING KEEPS FAMILIES TOGETHER
Advances in genetic testing is another area where new developments are helping to reduce the impacts of cancer. Genetic testing allows us to do better risk assessment for some patients and helps us guide them to appropriate screening and prevention options.

For example, we have discovered a panel of genes that are found in patients with breast cancer. In 1996, Myriad Genetics Inc., developed the first molecular diagnostic tests, called “tumor markers”, for the BRACA1 and BRACA2 genes. These genes help identify risk factors for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Today, the number of known genetic markers is up to 35.

Thanks to this information, patients from high-risk families can find out whether they are positive for a gene or not. This information can also provide recommendations for screening and even possible preventive treatments. A person with an affected gene might, for example, make a decision to have breasts or ovaries removed as preventive measures. She could also choose to take medication or be screened more often.
 

PET SCANNERS DETECT SMALLER TUMORS
New PET scanners are detecting tumors at sizes even smaller than before.
 

NEWER SURGICAL APPROACHES IMPROVE QUALITY OF LIFE
Thanks to research done on thousands of women in the past, we now know that for many patients, limited surgery at the axilla (underarm) produces outcomes as effective as removing all the nodes. Called a sentinel node procedure, this less invasive surgery reduces the risk of lymphedema and produces a significant improvement in quality of life for breast cancer patients.
 

RADIATION TECHNOLOGIES BRING HIGHLY TARGETED TREATMENT
Improvements in radiation technology have resulted in more focused treatments and reduced side effects compared to treatments given even five years ago.

Some patients with early stage inoperable lung cancer now have the opportunity to be treated with stereotactic radiotherapy (focused radiation delivered to a narrowly defined target). This allows many of these patients to be treated successfully without surgery.
 

TARGETED THERAPIES OFFER NEW HOPE
In the fight against breast cancer, new targeted therapies, such as Herceptin and Perjeta, have produced a significant response for certain breast cancers and have increased survival.


IMMUNOTHERAPIES LENGTHEN SURVIVAL
Certain immunotherapies, such as Keytruda, have helped increase survival for lung and other cancers.


THE FIGHT CONTINUES
Rest assured, we in the cancer field are not resting on our laurels. Here at the Community Cancer Center, we use everything we have -- from screening and prevention to advanced imaging, advanced therapies and more – to give our patients the best care possible close to home.

We’re grateful that our patients have entrusted their care to us and congratulate our patients on their survivorship. We wish you strength and courage as we continue this fight together.


When it rains, look for rainbows.
When it’s dark, look for stars.
-OSCAR WILDE

 

Dr. Woodhouse

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