Cancer is defined as a disease that is caused by cells dividing uncontrollably and spreading to nearby tissue. Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body and it is made up by a build up of cells called a tumor. Cancer lives throughout recorded history just as it does today, an unsolved mystery. The earliest findings of tumors and cancer can be found in ancient Egyptian Mummies, and the first recordings were found in 3000 BC in Egypt. Although they didn’t refer to it as cancer, they described it as 8 cases of tumors that were surgically removed. The words, “there is no treatment,” were written in those early recordings. They couldn’t be more wrong! I’ll let it slide though because their technology was 5000 years behind ours. There are in fact many treatments in the world for cancer and there are new ones being discovered every day. While there may not be a cure for cancer, there are many treatments that show more and more signs of remission.
What Treatments Are Available?
The most common and well known treatment for cancer is Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that relies on the injection of chemicals to kill all of the fast growing cells in the human body. Chemotherapy is somewhat of a flexible treatment because it doesn’t have to be the primary treatment. Chemotherapy can be used without using other treatments, after using other treatments, and to prepare you for other treatments. While this may sound very appealing and hopeful, the success rate of Chemotherapy isn’t as high as we’d like it to be. The success rate varies, but it’s evident that as the severity of the cancer increases, the effectiveness of treatment decreases. Furthermore, the side effects of chemotherapy are not only excruciating, but scarring. As stated, the treatment attacks all of the fast growing cells, including hair, skin blood intestinal cells. This will cause hair loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue, easy bruising and fever.
There are other treatments for cancer that are not related to Chemotherapy, such as surgery, targeted therapies, and supportive care. Surgery is one of the biggest options for early stage cancers that are not blood cancers. Surgically removing the tumor from the body is the motive of this form of treatment. One must take into account the size, location and stage of the tumor in question. Targeted therapies (precision medicine) are tailored to specific patients. Through this therapy, scientists are able to find five or six gene processes that essentially turn a cancer “on or off.” While supportive care isn’t exactly considered medicine, forms of meditation and fitness are said to ease the effects of cancer and cancer treatment.
A New Hope
Through extensive research and testing, a new hope for remission has been discovered. Immunotherapy is a known, newer method of treating cancer that, instead of directly killing the cancer cells, boosts one’s immune system and natural defenses. This is a type of biological therapy because it uses substances made from living organisms as treatment. A recently discovered form of Immunotherapy called CAR T-cell therapy has proven to show a lot of promise. T-cells are a type of white blood cell that kills cells infected with a pathogen. In this new therapy, doctors take blood from the patient and separate the T-cells from it. They then genetically change these cells so that they specifically attach to a protein on cancer cells. After expanding the number of T-cells, the doctors inject them back into the body. This treatment, however, is not without its side effects. As these T-cells cells multiply, they release cytokines into the blood, causing nausea, vomiting, fever, headaches, and diarrhea. How has CAR T-cell therapy been effective? An experiment was done in 2010 on two individuals with Chronic lymphocytic leukemia using CAR T-cell therapy. Just after this experiment, both patients saw complete remission in their cancer. And now ten years later, these two individuals show complete remission. Although more research needs to be done, CAR T-cell therapy proves to be an effective, long term treatment for cancer.