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Where Are We in the Fight Against Cancer?

By Haripriya Kungumaraj


Almost everyone knows someone who has or has had cancer. We have been at war with cancer for almost half a century now, and it has become the second leading cause of death worldwide. But where are we in this fight against cancer at present?


Although there have certainly been some advancements in the field of science and medicine, this perturbing battle is far from being won. Statistically speaking, there has been a 41% increase in the probability of a cancer patient living at least 5 years after diagnosis since 1975 [1]. With an estimated 32.6 million cancer survivors, giving an upward trajectory over the last 10 years, and an approximate 1% decrease in the mortality rate per year due to cancer has been achieved. These achievements can be directly credited to the advancements in research related to human genetics. Genetics has made it possible to identify unique “biomarkers” in cancer cells. These biomarkers make it possible to diagnose conditions in case of early-stage cancers, to forecast how aggressive a condition is, and to determine a patient’s ability to survive in the absence of treatment. Advancements such as those in genetics have made it possible to develop new medications that are meant to target specific types of cancer and stop them from aggravating. In fact, “more than 70% of recent survival gains in cancer are attributable to treatment advances including new medicines” [1]


Despite all these advancements, the reality is that cancer can strike anyone regardless of where an individual lives. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “between 30–50% of types of cancer can currently be prevented by avoiding risk factors and implementing existing evidence-based prevention strategies. The risk of cancer can be reduced by its early detection and management of patients who develop cancer. Many variants of cancer have a high chance of being cured if diagnosed early and treated adequately” [2].


Not only does cancer impact the patient, but it also impacts also their loved ones. However, these progressing technologies give hope that this battle can be won sooner than later.



References

  1. Global Oncology Trends 2019. (2019). IQVIA. https://www.iqvia.com/insights/the-iqvia-institute/reports/global-oncology-trends-2019

  2. Cancer. (2018, September 12). WHO. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer


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