According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 1.6-million Americans were diagnosed with the disease in 2014 alone. While we’re making great strides in cancer research and treatment and we’re now able to save the lives of nearly two-thirds of these 1.6-million annual diagnosed cases, a cancer diagnosis still brings with it a great deal of uncomfortable testing and treatment options.
Between invasive exploratory surgery, removal, chemotherapy and radiation, cancer patients come face-to-face with the reality that even a cancer diagnosed early (and with a high chance of survival) isn’t a battle without its difficulties. The average cancer patient is going to be poked, prodded, and poisoned in an attempt to find, and treat their disease. Luckily, we’re making breakthroughs every day that make the fight against cancer an easier one to handle for all those involved.
Here are just a few breakthroughs that are leading to a less-invasive path to cancer treatment.
Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) Techniques
Due to innovative developments in MIS such as laparoscopy, interventional radiology, electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy and others, we’re beginning to see smaller incisions (or none at all), faster recovery time, and increased ability to find and extract cancer in hard-to-reach areas. Laparoscopy, for example, uses a telescopic rod attached to a camera lens that is inserted through a minute incision, sometimes as small as a grain of rice. This device allows oncologists to take biopsy samples, explore the area for growth, and even execute some smaller surgical procedures.
Trovagene uses molecular diagnostics in order to look for whether ctDNA is present in the urine or blood and contains specific mutations.
While a biopsy was once the only way to detect mutation or cell growth in cancer, a new breed of urine (or blood) test could be its natural predecessor. The test itself analyzes ctDNA without the need for any downtime, and in the comfort of your physician or oncologist’s office. Once collected and analyzed the results are sent to your healthcare professional. The ctDNA test itself is an excellent non-or minimally invasive test that could replace the need for an exploratory biopsy in some patients.
Recently approved by the FDA, the PillCam aims to minimize the need for the ultra-invasive colonoscopy. The typical colonoscopy involves using an endoscope with a camera to view the inside of the large intestine and part of the small intestine. After inserting the endoscope rectally, doctors then search for polyps which tend to bleed during early-stage colon cancer.
The PillCam is about the size of, well, a pill. In addition to being smaller, the PillCam is swallowed, rather than inserted rectally. Once it reaches the intestines, the camera takes photos and transmits them to a computer over the course of approximately 10 hours.
As technology moves forward a day in which terminal cancer is completely eradicated is within view. While it may be some time before we actually get there, these new cancer diagnosis and treatment options are making the pill just a little easier to swallow.