How Digital Innovation is Transforming Cancer Care and Diagnosis
One of the most exciting aspects of technology is the rate at which it is consistently developing.
Over the last few decades, the evolution of technology has presented incredible solutions to global issues, and this progression in innovation is surely set to continue.
Digital Innovation in Healthcare
The use of modern-day technologies within healthcare environments has allowed for so many wonderful changes to the medical world. This is a fact that benefits patients and their families and makes the work of healthcare professionals easier and more efficient.
Better technology allows healthcare professionals to provide a greater level of care and to improve patient outcomes. This is especially true when it comes to diagnostics, treatment options, and tracking patient data.
As medical technology has developed over time, it has become easier to diagnose problems early on. Early diagnosis allows for treatment to begin as soon as possible, which in many cases can make a huge difference to the outcome for the patient.
Cancer is a serious health event that can often be terminal. However, with early diagnosis, many patients can expect much better results from their treatment options. In certain situations, early diagnosis can even result in a person being completely cured of their cancer. It is also less likely that cancer will be diagnosed as terminal if the patient discovers they have the disease relatively early on.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is a disease that can present for a wide number of reasons. It is characterized by certain cells in the body growing uncontrollably. When this happens, these cells can form tumors, which can then become cancerous.
These cancerous tumors can spread around the body and harm other cells as they do so.
Cancer is a disease that can be developed due to exposure to harmful substances, such as tobacco smoke. However, it is also a genetic condition and can therefore be inherited from one or both parents.
What Causes Cancer?
Over the last few decades, healthcare professionals have become well-informed about the various common causes of cancer. This has allowed for many of the common carcinogens to be further investigated and warned against.
Common carcinogenic substances include:
- Processed meat
The radiation produced by ultraviolet rays is also known to cause cancer.
In addition to these well-known carcinogens, it is also occasionally the case that additional substances are identified as having the potential to be cancer-causing. This sometimes happens with certain chemicals or medications. Unfortunately, these chemicals and medications are often not understood as potentially carcinogenic until they are already widely used by consumers or patients.
This was, unfortunately, the case with an over-the-counter medication called Zantac. This medication was widely dispensed as a treatment for heartburn, acid indigestion, and acid reflux during the last four decades. Having been commercially available since 1981, it was not until 2020 that Zantac was taken out of use. This eventual action was due to the US Food and Drug Administration discovering that Zantac contained high levels of a carcinogenic ingredient.
Since this discovery, a Zantac lawsuit has been underway to seek recognition and compensation for those affected.
Technology and Cancer Diagnosis
The processes used to diagnose cancer have evolved over the years, much to the benefit of patients.
It is usually the case that a physical exam by a doctor will be the first step in checking for cancer. The doctor will usually look for signs of tumors, as well as other common indications that cancer is present in the body. This could include discoloration of the skin.
Following a physical exam, patients may undergo laboratory tests using samples of blood and urine. This can help to detect any common abnormalities that could indicate the presence of cancer. It is also possible that a doctor will do a biopsy of suspect cells to send off for laboratory testing.
When more testing is needed to make a diagnosis, imaging tests can provide further information. Imaging tests, such as CT scans, MRI scans, PET scans, and X-rays, can all be used to help with the diagnosis of a range of cancers.
Medical imaging is an area that has benefited greatly from innovations in medical technology.
Innovations in Digital Medical Imaging
Before the turn of the millennium, medical imaging was an analog system. This means it was displayed through images processed from the film. This was a slow process and meant that the developed images were physical items that could only be in one place at a time.
From the early 2000s, medical imaging transformed into a digital process. This transformation completely eradicated the need to process the film, and the images became instantly viewable. Moving to a digital system also meant that the images could be viewed by any medical professional anywhere in the world. This allows for greater collaboration between different healthcare professionals who have different areas of expertise.
This simple but important change has revolutionized the speed and efficiency at which cancer can be detected and diagnosed. In turn, this has resulted in faster treatment options and better outcomes for countless patients all around the world.
Technology and Cancer Care
Routine cancer treatment could soon look very different from the approach used today.
Technologies to create customized treatment plans based on the genetic makeup of a patient’s tumor or tumors are currently underway. By utilizing DNA sequencing in this way, specific mutations could be better matched to available drugs and other treatment options.
This is a process that will have to operate side by side with artificial intelligence software to search for the most relevant drug or treatment path. An algorithm to match the genetic makeup of the tumor to a specific drug will make the job of oncologists much simpler and reduce the potential for error. This algorithm would be able to search through millions of studies and clinical trials to find the very best treatment option in a matter of minutes, if not seconds.
Once this technology is ready to be implemented, it is set to become the standard process for determining the route of treatment that a cancer patient will follow.