With each year, cancer patients see new options for treatment. Some are more targeted. Some have fewer side effects. McLeod Cancer Specialist Donny Huynh, MD, takes a look at the many recent advances that benefit cancer patients.
Here’s a summary of Dr. Huynh’s comments:
The landscape of cancer care has changed dramatically in the 21st century. Our knowledge in cancer biology has grown tremendously. And that led to a remarkable progress in cancer prevention, early detection and cancer treatment. Scientists have now been able to understand more about cancer within the past two decades than everything learned before that. And yet, there’s still more to learn.
For example, our specialty — hematology/oncology — expanded further into blood disorders, including blood cancer. One of the most common types of blood cancers that we see is chronic leukemia, such as chronic myeloid leukemia or chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Thanks to the advancement of modern medications, many of these conditions are now becoming much more treatable and less feared. Two decades ago, a patient with chronic myeloid leukemia was expected to live about 5 to 7 years. Nowadays, the average life expectancy of this patient is about 25 years and counting. And that is by taking a few pills a day. Therefore, the whole landscape has changed dramatically in the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia.
Similarly, in acute leukemia, there are more specific tests that we can do to help identify which patients can benefit from early bone marrow transplant. We are able to identify certain risk factors associated with this condition to see if the cancer is getting worse..
There has been considerable advancement on many fronts. Here we’re talking about the availability of targeted therapy and immunotherapy. We’re talking about cancer genetics where a certain molecular mutation can be identified. We’re talking about nanotechnology where it can actually improve the accuracy of imaging tests. On a surgical standpoint, there is robotic surgery when there is a need for a more precise type of procedure. It can be done with minimal surgical trauma to the patients.
Now, my personal philosophy is to take the whole person approach when it comes to care. That is to listen to the patients and take into account all of the involved factors when it comes to treatment planning. I don’t believe on treating someone just based on their CT scan results, blood tests or their fears. My goal is to deliver compassionate care and to emphasize on the quality of healthcare delivery as a member of a cancer program.
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