During an age where technology continues to improve at an alarming rate, so to do the ways in which it impacts many aspects of our lives. Communication, marketing and, of course, the healthcare fields in particular. Modern medicine has improved so much over the past several years that the days of resorting to standard methods of medical practice are steadily on the decline in favor of more personal, individualized treatment plans. Most recently, this shift in practice has been seen to affect treatments regarding breast cancer, particularly in its early stages.
In days gone by of the medical world, breast cancer – and many other cancers besides – were generally approached with only a few options for treatment: surgery and blanket treatments such as radiation, hormonal or chemotherapy. Apart from being invasive and altogether unpleasant, the side effects of such treatment plans generally came with a plethora of cons comparative to the pros. For example, in a typical treatment plan of chemotherapy, many patients can potentially look forward to the following sorts of side effects:
- Hair loss
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Skin and nail changes such as discoloration or dry skin
- Appetite changes
- Mood changes
And these are just minor inconveniences compared to the more problematic side effects that chemotherapy could provide.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Urine and bladder changes, kidney problems
- Nerve and muscle problems such as numbness, tingling, and pain
- Mouth, tongue and throat problems such as sores and pain with swallowing
The reason for this being that chemotherapy, when introduced into the body via an array of drugs, targets and kills fast-growing cells. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, the medicine is a sort of blanket treatment and cannot differentiate between cancerous cells and healthy cells that just happen to grow at a faster rate, and thus many of the side effects occur because of unintentionally targeted cells in hair follicles, skin, intestines, and even bone marrow.
While the obvious upside was a better chance of beating cancer, it was a bumpy road that many people trudged precariously. Thankfully, it seems oncologists have found more alternatives for cancer treatments that have them recommending the likes of chemotherapy with less frequency to their patients. In fact, according to this intellectual article by Robert Preidt, the use of chemotherapy among a select group of early-stage breast cancer patients fell by over one third – from 34.5 percent to 21 percent – in a study conducted between 2013 and 2015.
This could be due to a rise of popular treatments and procedures that stray from the likes of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, such as immunotherapy, which predominantly utilizes the body’s own immune system to suppress cancerous growth, or targeted therapy, which incorporates medicine along an entire spectrum for targeting various and specific characteristics of cancerous cells. The latter in particular, unlike chemotherapy, lessens the likelihood that healthy cells will be targeted and thus many of the more offensive side effects from treatments such as chemotherapy can be avoided.