Learning that you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer can be one of the scariest moments in your life. It might be difficult to be optimistic. However, the develop of new technology in cancer treatment is helping more and more people effectively treat their cancer and live longer, fuller, healthier lives than ever before.
When most people think about cancer treatment, their minds probably go to radiation and chemotherapy. While these methods are still the primary types of treatment for various kinds of cancer, the technology used to administer them has changed a great deal. Every single person is unique, so it makes sense that every person’s cancer treatment should also be unique. When cancer treatment is personalized, specialized, and focused, a patient has a higher chance of overcoming their particular form and severity of the illness.
Once of the best examples of new technology in cancer treatment is a new process called ChemoID. Through ChemoID, an oncologist has a higher chance of using the most effective chemotherapy drugs for a patient’s particular cancer. During ChemoID, a doctor takes a small sample of a patient’s tumor. Then, that sample is used to grow bulk tumor cells and cancer stem cells. By testing these cells with a variety of chemotherapy drugs, a doctor can determine which medicines kill the most cells most effectively. By assuring the use of the most effective chemotherapy drugs before treating the patient, a doctor can avoid administering unnecessarily painful, stressful, and lengthy chemotherapy treatment. Instead, the patient receives the treatment that will help him or her with his or her particular cancer, which can lead to faster and more dramatic positive results. ChemoID can also help patients save large amounts of money that would be wasted on drugs that do little for them.
New technology in cancer treatment has also changed the way doctors and patients can approach radiation. In many people’s minds, radiation therapy has been known to impact and even damage healthy parts of the body surrounding the cancerous tumors. Advancements in technology have lessened much of that danger and made radiation into a safer, more effective form of treatment.
Linear accelerators are the treatment machines used to deliver radiation to a cancer patient’s body and organs after an oncologist prescribes the appropriate dosage. These machines form high-energy x-rays into the shape of a patient’s tumor. As radiation is beamed into the tumor, other lasers surrounding the patient prevent him or her from moving around enough to hinder the precision of the x-ray.
Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) is a specific type of radiation therapy that uses the linear accelerator platform. Through IMRT, computer-controlled linear accelerators direct high doses of radiation to a patient’s tumor in controlled, appropriate volumes and sizes. Although this radiation is very strong, the technology behind IMRT also minimizes damage to the tissues surrounding the tumor. This allows doctors to use higher doses of radiation more effectively, fighting cancer without doing harm to the health of the patient. IMRT is currently typically used for patients who are suffering from prostate, head and neck, and central nervous system cancers.
Another new technology in cancer treatment is Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IMGT), which also employs linear accelerators. IMGT allows for even more precise radiation treatment because it uses technology that can recognize the size and shape of the tumor within the body. This is especially useful because tumors can move and change position as a result of normal body functions. Some tumors, such as those in the lungs, liver, prostate gland, and critical organs, are often more prone to movement than others. Through IMGT, a patient can receive radiation without damaging healthy surrounding tissue, even if his or her tumor has moved.
The developments in radiation therapy do not end there. Three-dimensional conformal Radiation Therapy uses a machine called a wide-boar CT simulator, which helps oncologists quickly create three-dimensional maps of a tumor and the surrounding tissue. Another technology called High-Dose Rate Brachytherapy employs a catheter to channel radiation to the cancer cells, allowing a direct dose to the tumors.
While learning that you or a loved one has cancer is never easy, the developments of new technology in cancer treatment can provide hope for those suffering from the physical, emotional, and mental pain cancer causes. There are effective, personalized methods of helping people recover and live full, health lives.