Survival rate doubles with new treatments to fight cancer
Sharing his ideas on the fight against cancer due to the “World Cancer Day”, Istanbul University Oncology Institute Faculty Member Prof. Dr. Yeşim Eralp stated that in parallel with the population increase in Turkey, the number of patients living with cancer is estimated to increase to 1.3 million in 2030, but the developments in the field of treatment are promising. Stating that cancer-related death rates have decreased seriously in the last 20 years, Prof. Dr. Yeşim Eralp said, “The probability of surviving five years of cancer patients increases from 35% to 75%, and even to 90% in some cancers such as breast cancer. Especially with the increase in personalized treatments and the increase in treatments based on genetic mutation tests, patients can also think more positively about the future.
Stating that an important reason for the decrease in cancer-related death rates is early diagnosis, Prof. Dr. Yeşim Eralp said: “Early diagnosis is an important factor in this decrease in mortality rates. We can say that the chance of early diagnosis increases especially in cancer types where screening is effective and in societies that can access health services more easily. However, since the incidence of cancer has not changed, the most important factor contributing to this increase in life expectancy should be the improvement in treatment.
The most important condition for getting rid of cancer is to detect the disease at an early stage, before it spreads around. We define this as “early diagnosis in cancer”. The earlier the cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat, and the higher the chance of cure. Therefore, being aware of our bodies and taking them seriously if we have complaints and investigating the cause can protect us from a very difficult situation in the future.”
Significant advances in the treatment of most types of cancer
Giving information about the developments in the treatment of major cancer types, Prof. Dr. Yeşim Eralp said: “For example, in lung cancers diagnosed at an early stage, 35-80% of patients can be cured as a result of the treatments carried out by the right teams, who have adopted a multi-disciplinary approach. The success rate in breast cancer also varies according to the stage of the disease. Healing rates can range from 35% to 90%, depending on the size of the tumor, metastasis to the lymph nodes, and the biology of the tumor. The success of the treatment is also very related to the correct and rational application of the treatments, apart from the genetic characteristics that determine the behavior of the tumor, as in the case of lung cancers.
Promising developments are recorded for patients with personalized treatments determined according to genetic characteristics and certain mutation-positive subgroups. For this reason, it is very important that the treatment and follow-ups are guided by specialized and experienced teams. Similarly, the underlying cause of 90% of bowel cancers is cancerous polyps. Colonoscopy, which is a screening and early treatment method, is of great importance, since the detection and removal of polyps before they become cancerous prevents colon cancer. Developments in both screening and treatment methods have positively reflected on life expectancy in bowel cancers.
The era of “personalized treatment” in breast cancer treatment
Emphasizing that personalized treatment methods against breast cancer increase the success rate in breast cancer treatment, Prof. Dr. Yeşim Eralp said: “With the development of genetic diagnosis and treatment methods in recent years, it has emerged that cancer cells can be shaped differently in every cancer type, even in every patient with the same type of cancer. Therefore, we now know that two breast cancers that appear pathologically the same type can actually exhibit genetically different behaviors. This is what we call “target-directed therapy” or “personalized therapy”, the treatments that are planned and applied separately for each patient by targeting these different genetic behaviors.
Breast cancer is one of the malignant diseases in which the most research is carried out on this subject. We are very lucky that there are personalized treatments in breast cancer that enable our patients to continue their lives in a healthier way, both in the early stages and in the advanced stages, and even save lives. Thanks to ongoing studies, we anticipate that such treatment options will gradually increase. I think this is a very promising situation for our patients and for us on the treatment side. Thanks to personalized treatments, our patients can also think more positively.”
The doors of a new era in cancer treatment are opening with immuno-oncology!
Future in cancer treatment, targeted therapies and immunotherapy
Stating that targeted therapies and immunotherapy will play an important role in the future of cancer treatment, Prof. Dr. Yeşim Eralp said: “In parallel with the development of nanotechnological methods, restructured or newly discovered drugs can be administered like a guided missile only to cancer cells without damaging living cells, which will be a very important step in cancer treatment strategies in the near future. Our goal in the longer term is to make the genetic map of each cancer separately and to ensure that each patient is treated with their own cancer-specific treatment method. In this way, it will be possible to create a three-dimensional information technology network that includes the genetic characteristics of the cancer, the prevalence of the disease in the body, its stage and treatment features for each patient.
In addition, “immunotherapy” approaches, which have recently started to appear in the media, have also started to gain a serious place in cancer treatment. These drugs actually serve to release the brake of the immune system and thus destroy the disease by our own immune system. Studies are continuing to determine which cancer groups these drugs will be more effective in and to determine the ideal usage schemes.”
Psychological support is also very important in cancer treatment.
Stating that cancer treatment should be supported socially and psychologically as well as physically, Prof. Dr. Yeşim Eralp emphasized that the approach of families, relatives and caregivers to the patient significantly affects this process. According to the data of “American Psychological Association” and “National Cancer Institute”, chemotherapy and radiotherapy cause or increase stress reactions in 40 percent of patients. Anxiety, depression and decrease in quality of life are the most common distressing situations for patients. Studies show that one out of every four patients suffers from depression.
prof. Dr. Yeşim Eralp recommended the following to those who want to support cancer patients:
- Talk to people who have similar experience as you.
- Go with your patient’s emotional pace, psychological adaptation varies from person to person.
- Learn about treatments and how your patient may feel.
- Give yourself time, too, to acclimate to this period of your life.
- Don’t waste all your energy trying to make everything perfect.
- Take breaks for yourself to conserve your energy.
- Be a good listener, you don’t always have to say anything.
- Do not be afraid to ask people for support.
- When people offer to help, don’t turn it down.
- Try to eat a balanced diet and get as much sleep as possible.
- Strengthen your skills to cope with stress, get expert support if necessary.
- Think positive and support your patient to think positive as well.
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