One out of every two men and one out of every three women will be diagnosed with cancer. But despite those vast numbers, most individuals don’t know what that means. At the simplest level, cancer or cancer cells are cells that have lost the ability to follow the standard control that the body exerts on all cells. In our bodies, we have billions and billions of cells, and they have different functions. It’s a very complicated process under incredibly phenomenal control and if something goes wrong and that control is lost and particular cells escape the standard control mechanisms.
They continue to grow, and they may spread. That’s what we call cancer. Those cells together, we would call that a tumor. Specifically, cancer is a malignant tumor, and we call it cancerous because not only can it invade into adjacent organs, but unfortunately, cancer can spread to other tissues, and that can be life-threatening. Cancer can occur anywhere in the body because there are cells everywhere in the body. In women, one of the most common tumors, of course, is breast cancer and men prostate cancer.
It’s important to understand that cancer that occurs in one individual is very different than cancer that occurs in another, just like those individuals are different. So a lung tumor in one person will be very different from a lung tumor in another person. Once the diagnosis of cancer is made, of course, the next obvious question is, what do you do.
Several things are relevant. The stage of disease, How much cancer is present? Has it spread? Is it in lymph nodes? Has it spread to other organs of the body? Cancer treatment is very complex, and part of the reason is that cancer is this constellation of over two hundred different diseases.
In addition to that, cancer itself is not homogeneous.
There may be three or four or five or six different slight variations in the cancer cells that are there. People ask why? Why does my cancer not go away? It shrunk by seventy percent. What’s wrong with the other thirty percent? Well, it’s probably a different subtype of that cancer which is going to require a different kind of treatment. There are three primary therapies for cancer: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Surgery works by directly removing the tumor.
Radiation therapy provides x-rays to kill individual cells, and the chemotherapy contains chemicals that can kill those particular cells. But they have side effects. The best therapies that we can produce are the result of optimizing the amount of tumor that we can kill by any treatment and minimizing the amount of damage that we cause to the healthy cells that would be affected by that treatment.
At Cancer Treatment Centers of America, we have a very robust integrative oncology program. Integrative oncology is taking those conventional oncology treatments and integrating those with therapies like acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, chiropractic, nutrition. To blend those together and to create the most appropriate treatment plan for that individual patient at that moment in time.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America has invested in a model in which all of the effects of cancer and its therapy are aggressively treated and managed. It’s not just enough to kill cancer if we don’t treat the pain, the fatigue, the depression, or the anxiety that comes with a diagnosis of cancer. Receiving a diagnosis of cancer can be a frightening thing. The good news is that today is probably the most exciting time in history in terms of the treatment of cancer. Options that didn’t exist a few months ago indeed didn’t exist a few years ago, like the ability to genomically profile a tumor, and to take that individualized fingerprint of that cancer may direct us to tailor treatment in concrete ways.
We believe that in the future, many more patients with several different tumor types will potentially be able to benefit from the advances in precision medicine.
There are very hopeful options that are available to us as clinicians to make a difference in patient’s lives and it’s therefore just as crucial for patients to know that, so they have those hopeful options and they take advantage of them.