New developments in cancer care provide more options and optimism for the 120,000 Texans diagnosed each year with cancer. Texas Oncology physicians have identified the following top cancer trends for 2018:
1. Toppling Cancer Type and Location
Ten years ago, we looked at cancer primarily by the subtype location, be it breast, lung, melanoma, or colon cancer. Today, we better understand distinct molecular pathways, enabling us to target and personalize treatment plans regardless of the cancer location. Five years ago, we conducted testing for only a handful of cancer factors. Now we test for more than 50 genetic markers to make evidence-based decisions on the best treatment options. Patients appreciate that we’re treating their tumor rather than just a generic cancer.
2. Reducing Chemotherapy
Although chemotherapy remains a primary way we treat cancer, innovations based on studying gene mutations within the cancer are an exciting trend. Through recent advances in molecular biology and immunotherapy – which uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer – personalized treatment can be more effective and less toxic than chemotherapy. Precision in radiation technology has advanced dramatically, targeting tumors without harming healthy tissue. For example, we previously could treat but not cure metastatic stage IV cancer patients. For some, we can use stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) and immunotherapy to achieve long-term control and possibly cure of disease.
3. Using Big Data
With many thousands of patients under its care, Texas Oncology uses big data to glean powerful insights and discoveries, such as better understanding of genetic risk, new approaches to therapeutics, and trends in healthy living post-treatment. Oncology is a highly evidence-based specialty, and cancer data are critical to treatment planning, which involves a careful balance of effectiveness, toxicity, and cost. For more than a decade, we have participated in evidence-based pathways, using cancer data to improve outcomes. We use vast amounts of information on patient illnesses, Medicare data on services, and as well as total cost of care. We analyze patient outcomes, hospitalizations, and ER visits to help us identify opportunities to change care delivery to improve outcomes and patient experience.
4. Surviving and Thriving
Better screening and treatment means more survivors who can enjoy better quality of life after cancer. Treatment breakthroughs that are less toxic mean fewer near and long-term side effects. Earlier detection and genetic testing provide better understanding of cancer risk and the opportunity to treat cancer sooner, with greater success. Also, more people are quitting or avoiding smoking, leading to significantly lower lung cancer deaths.
We believe that survivorship begins at diagnosis. That’s why we create a treatment plan for every patient, outlining all care options using evidence-based research. We guide patients and family members through every part of the treatment process, including post-treatment and adjusting to a new life as a cancer survivor.
5. Increasing Patient Power
In 2018, cancer patients are more involved in their treatment decisions than ever. Baby Boomers and succeeding generations have more access to information and tend to conduct their own cancer research. We encourage patients to discuss their goals and values with their doctors early and throughout treatment. Texas Oncology’s detailed treatment plans include the type and stage of cancer, the purpose and goal of treatment, and information on drugs and any side effects. Patients are free to share the plan with family and friends so that everyone sharing in their cancer journey is informed.
We are excited about promising trends in cancer that enable us to innovate with more effective treatments that lead to better outcomes and quality of life for patients during and after treatment.
Alvaro Restrepo, M.D.
Alvaro Restrepo, M.D., Texas Oncology is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–McAllen, 1901 South 2nd Street in McAllen, Texas.To learn more about exciting advancements in cancer treatment, visit www.TexasOncology.com or call 1-888-864-I CAN (4226).