What Will Cancer Early Detection Look Like?
September 18, 2012
Co- authored by Abbie Lieberman.
Imagine the year is 2030. Jane Doe has been feeling under the weather and is experiencing unfamiliar stomach pain. Her doctor sends her a portable, at-home screening kit that can test for multiple conditions including a variety of cancers. She takes a picture of the results using her smart device and sends them off to her doctor. A day later in the clinic, her doctor informs her that she has the earliest stages of ovarian cancer detectable. In this future time, Jane’s cancer cells are removed quickly and she is out of danger. In such a world, cancer is found early and is eliminated or reduced to a chronic illness, rarely being a fatal disease. Jane is closely monitored from this time forward and she goes on to live a long and happy life.
When cancer early detection tools become a reality, cancer screenings will change drastically and so will the impact of this disease on human life. Cancer could be re-categorized to become a condition or a disease swiftly dealt with, with fewer side effects or damage to the body. However, at-home tests to detect cancer early could be a long way off in the future. Is there something we can believe in without waiting for the Jane Doe scenario to come about?
In the more near-term, Canary researchers foresee important steps becoming practiced in our lifetime. A patient will most likely go into a doctor’s office, and get an extensive panel of blood work done at an annual exam. If the results are positive, an imaging test will be conducted to determine exactly where the cancer cells are. We already know this truth: when found early, a tumor can be removed or treated before it spreads. The patient’s survival rate increases to 90% (generalized) compared to the 10% survival rate when found late (today’s norm).
These tandem tests – a blood followed by a molecular imaging test – will become more efficient and affordable over time and as they become more widely used, and countless lives will change for the better. Diagnostic platforms will become faster. Doctors will no longer need to send tests out to a lab and make patients wait two weeks to get results. Misdiagnosis will become a thing of the past. Surgery or treatment will address cancer early. With the right investment, cancer can be eliminated or reduced to a condition to be managed, not the detrimental diagnosis it most often is today.
Canary is working on demonstrating safe, efficient, cost effective tools to find tumor cancer early when most treatable. These tests can turn cancer around. Saving lives and improving lives is an achievable goal if we as a nation put our minds to it. Now that’s a future we can all look forward to.