- Exploration - Nowadays, thanks to the advancement of technology and the internet, information has become readily available at our fingertips through the use of search engines. Once an irregularity occurs, most people can’t help conducting self-research online. Yet, accurate, reliable and up-to-date healthcare information is not easy to find as anticipated. Added, in order to verify these information, it’s essential to seek consultation to make an informed decision, which usually comes at a cost of both “time” and “expenses.”
Some types of cancer can be a silent threat to our health that creeps up without warning.
Once diagnosed, each “cancer patient” usually goes through a number of different feelings. Whether it’s confusion, due to their past healthy eating habits and self-care; or worry in the case of how to break the bad news to the family; or perhaps the fear of not knowing what the future holds and how long they will be able to live. That said, although feelings differ from person to person, every cancer patient shares the same hope, which is to be able to live a normal, cancer-free life again. In the journey to “recovery,” all patients and caretakers must endure various medical and treatment processes, which are often met with many obstacles and challenges.
- Diagnosis - This process is like “fumbling along the path” to determine type, location and stage of the disease. Doctors rely on a combination of medical history and various clinical tests, such as endoscopy which costs the patient precious time and expenses associated with a doctor visit. It may reflect opportunity costs as well, in case the patient or caregiver need to take leave. Tissue biopsy is an invasive procedure to remove tissue from a lump or mass for examination, and thus put the patient through both physical and mental trauma. The average laboratory turnaround time for such result can take up to 2-3 weeks. Should the biopsy does not reveal any common abnormality, the doctor will then continue to search for the second most common abnormality, which requires a turnaround time of 2-3 weeks likewise. In the worst case scenario, the process of tissue biopsies may continue through multiple loops of trial and error. During this time, the patient and caregiver will have to wait with mounting anxiety, until the person is finally declared a “cancer patient.” This bad news can take a serious toll on the patient, as well as the surrounding family and friends, as they are faced with the challenges of dealing with the disease. In some cases, this means sacrificing one's life goals to save the lives of their loved ones.
- First Administration - Past medical practices indicate a one-size-fits-all treatment for the same type of cancer. This leads to a certain group of patients responding well to the treatment, whereas other patients fail to get better. This mismatched treatment that does not target specific genomic mutations causes many burdens on both the patient and caregiver. This includes the loss of precious treatment time, as healthy cells are destroyed in the treatment process, leaving less and less chances for recovery as the patient’s time ticks backwards. At the same time, there is the mounting medical expenses that can take a toll on savings and relationships within the family. Therefore, compassion at this stage of the treatment between the patient and the caregiver is crucial, in order overcome the challenges of cancer.
- Ongoing Treatment - After undergoing treatment for a period of time, many patients can’t help comparing themselves to the progress of other patients with the same type of cancer, treatment and physician, who seem to be responding better to treatment and getting closer to “recovery.” Many patients are faced with problems relating to failed treatment as they hold on for dear life, whilst others are met with the fear of cancer recurrence, whereby symptoms usually get worse than the first round. The prolonged treatment process creates a mounting mental and physical stress on patients, as their lives become seemingly more hopeless. Added, the thought of not knowing the future, or how long one will continue to live can cause both the patient and caregiver to lose hope completely.
As can be seen, the traditional treatment practices for cancer with its one-size-fits-all approach is no different from ready-to-wear clothing. Some lucky individuals will be able to wear the clothing well, whilst others are left with a clothing that does not fit with their size or persona.
Did you know that the financial, time and mental burdens of cancer patients and caregivers are actually preventable? Thus, such changes can make the patient journey improve for the better.
Personalised healthcare is a new approach to medicine that works to revolutionise the patient journey. Advanced medical innovation and biotechnology have made it possible to detect genomic mutations across a diverse group of genes. Therefore, even though a patient has the same type of cancer, but the cause and course of treatment will be different for each. Such understanding demystifies why the same treatment yields different results for each patient?
Every patient is different. Like custom-made clothing, a personalised approach to cancer treatment which targets specific genetic mutation is the key to improved healthcare, better treatment response, higher survival rate and enhanced overall livelyhood. Hence, patients will be able to return to their normal or close to normal lives as soon as possible.
The first step to personalised healthcare is through comprehensive genomic profiling, which can be achieved by a single blood draw. The easy, fast, yet effective test can help to determine up to 300 types of genomic mutations, without undergoing invasive medical procedures and excruciating wait.
Unlike traditional treatment options that cancer of the of the same type were uniformly treated with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the advancement of medicine has made it possible for patients to receive personalised healthcare that addresses specific genomic mutations. This includes the used of targeted therapy, which targets specific genes that are involved in the growth of cancer cells, as well as immunotherapy, which strengthens a person’s immune system to fight the cancer. Such targeted therapy and immunotherapy have often been linked with fewer side effects than the standard one-size-fits-all treatment.
The access to more treatment information empowers patients and caregivers to engage with their physicians to determinate the most suitable treatment option available, taking into account factors such as the stage and the location of the disease, the tumor size, as well as the physical fitness of each individual patient. The superior results of personalised healthcare are evident in areas including better response to treatment, shorter recovery time, as well as fewer side effects. As such, patients are able to recover in a shorter timeframe and regain their physical condition, so both the patient and caretaker can return to their normal lives.
Whether you are reading this article as a patient or a caretaker, access to accurate, reliable and up-to-date information will definitely help prepare you for the challenges ahead and throughout the patient journey. At the same time, this information will also help lessen the burden of both the patient and caretaker, in order to move towards “recovery” and live a happy, healthy life as envisioned.