It’s April 1st – cancer awareness month. But aren’t we all aware of cancer? It now touches more than one in three of us – I know I rarely meet with someone who hasn’t had a powerful cancer story to share.
This month, I want to raise awareness about the positive side of cancer – about the tremendous progress that has been made in cancer research and care, right here where we live, in B.C.
Here are ten reasons why we can all feel optimistic:
1. Cancer is becoming a chronic, not fatal, disease.
New treatments are being developed that enable people to manage their cancer and continue to lead productive lives.
2. Advances in screening and prevention have led to vaccines that can prevent cancer.
For example, the HPV vaccine could reduce cervical cancer deaths worldwide by as much as two-thirds.
3. The discovery of biomarkers as diagnostic and prognostic tools is a big step toward personalized medicine in our lifetime.
In the foreseeable future, cancer prevention, screening, treatment and palliative care will be based on your genetic profile. The BC Cancer Agencyis uniquely positioned to be a prolific source of these kinds of discoveries.
4. The BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre is breaking new ground.
As one of the world’s top genome research labs dedicated to cancer research, it is at the centre of recent international discoveries in lymphoma,ovarian and breast cancers.
5. BC Cancer Agency’s Tumour Tissue Repository is the first in Canada.
It is critical to genomic research; supports translational research; sets the standard for cancer tissue banking across and beyond Canada, and involves patients as active research partners.
6. Stem cells are a promising future treatment option.
BC Cancer Agency researchers are leaders in understanding how deadly cancers like leukemia develop from stem cells, and are studying their use as a treatment alternative to painful bone marrow transplant.
7. One day you could use your own immune system to fight cancer.
Agency researchers are world leaders in studying how to harness and enhance a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer and prevent its recurrence.
8. The BC Cancer Agency’s Centre of Excellence for Functional Cancer Imaging is developing new uses for PET/CT scanning.
PET/CT scanning can show a cancer’s exact location in a patient’s body; reveal the size and spread of tumours; assist in treatment decisions that can avoid unnecessary surgery and reduce chemotherapy or radiation.
9. Invention of optical technology for widespread early detection and screening use.
The hand-held VELscope, developed at the BC Cancer Agency, can detect precancerous and cancerous oral tissue during your regular dental checkup; boost survival rates to 80 per cent; and prevent one of the most disfiguring cancers.
10. The BC Cancer Agency attracts leading experts from around the world.
It provides the same gold-standard cancer care to everyone in B.C. ; its 50-year, ongoing database of patient treatment and outcomes is an invaluable research tool.
These and other research advances are bringing hope to cancer patients and their families as never before. I hope you can share my excitement and optimism about these and the many new discoveries to come.
Please feel free to post any questions or comments you might have!