Monday, December 14, 2015

Is this the future of cancer?

Last August, former President Carter announced he had stage IV cancer with metastases to his liver and brain. Then a short four months later, he announced he was cancer free. I was very skeptical of this news. How did he go from Stage IV to cancer free in such a short period of time? This is not what one would expect with cancer.

I don't consider myself to be scared of the word 'cancer'. I realize it has been a fatal disease which has scared humans for centuries. I don't subscribe to the stereotype that the once you are diagnosed with cancer, there is no hope for you. In fact, I don't even know how to be an adult without cancer.

But to go from stage IV to cancer free in four months? That's pretty darn amazing. And what I find most exciting is that it is not some kind of miracle.

It is part luck that President Carter's liver metastases were resectable (meaning they could be easily removed through surgery). He had surgery and they were gone. His brain metastases were easily treated with radiation. They were very small but now detectable which is how they found them before they got to be very problematic. New advancements allowed them to be detected at 2mm. (2mm is equal to 0.079" or less than 1/10th of an inch.)

He was also treated with immunotherapy and will continue to receive it. Immunotherapy is by definition: "treatment that uses your body's own immune system to help fight cancer." So this is new science. I like that. I can live with that.

Overall, I find this very exciting. Stage IV cancer used to be only a death sentence. Once cancer had spread to the brain, crossing into the Central Nervous System, there was not much that could be done. But now it seems to have been halted in its progress.

It will be interesting to see where this goes. President Carter was partly lucky and partly benefited from scientific advancements. We also have no way of knowing when and if his cancer will return. But to see such a reversal of cancer so quickly is pretty incredible. 

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