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Making Cancer Treatment Personal 

Thanks to technology, oncologists can now customize treatment to individual patients. The results are changing the face of cancer care. 

Precision medicine, also called personalized medicine, targets certain gene expressions, proteins or other compounds in the body. This specificity allows for better results and fewer side effects.  

Individualized Treatment for an Individualized Disease 

Genetic tests are first used to identify a patient’s cancer risk factors, DNA biomarkers, certain hormones and cancer progression. Cancers consist of gene mutations or damage to DNA, which causes cells to replicate uncontrollably. A personalized treatment calibrated to the specific cell mutations or compounds targets the exact cause of cancer.  

These same biomarker tests and genetic screenings can be administered prior to detecting or diagnosing cancer. Patients could be much better informed about their individual cancer risks, perhaps in time to change lifestyle factors and reduce their risk. 

Among the best known of these genes is the BRCA gene, often known as the “breast cancer gene,” which has a strong family history component. Women often want to know if they have this gene and may plan extra screenings or even preventive steps to avoid serious illness.  

Children who have undergone genetic testing reportedly get better treatment, including chemotherapy less aggressive than regimens that can sap energy and immunity.  

Screening, Prevention & Successful Treatment 

Even if diverting the course of future disease isn’t possible, patients who were well informed about their cancer risks could seek regular screenings informed by their risk factors. Earlier diagnoses save lives, and identifying patients at high risk for specific kinds of cancer can ensure they get those earlier diagnoses.  

If cancer emerges, precision medicine techniques can identify treatments most likely to work, based on the exact type of tumor. The same tests can track the success of the treatment as it is administered. Tumor drugs, for example, may be up to six times as effective when genetic profiling is used to determine the treatment. 

With proper health plan coverage, patients can look to biomarker testing and precision medicine to identify cancer earlier and treat it more effectively – offering a personalized approach to an all-too-common disease.

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