Cancer. No matter what kind it is or what stage it's at, the diagnosis can be terrifying. A lot of the fear comes from the fact that while there are many effective ways to treat cancer, there isn't a cure for cancer.
Source: National Cancer Institutehttp://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/all.html
Finding a cure for cancer would save more than 580,000 lives and billions of dollars each year for research.
But what do we mean by a “cure for cancer?”
Some people consider chemotherapy and surgery to be cures for certain types of cancers. Other people say that these remedies are just treatments - not cures - because the cancer could come back.
A real cure permanently eliminates cancer in a person's body - with no chance for a relapse. Some people even go so far as to say that a cure would eliminate cancer from our diagnosis dictionary altogether, just like the polio vaccine.
So, how close are we to finding that kind of cure for cancer?
That depends on how you look at the question. On the one hand, we've made leaps and bounds of progress since we first figured out what exactly cancer is and how it works, but at the same time we've got miles to go before we can say we're anywhere near having a full understanding of this devastating disease and being able to come up with a cure.
Here are two of the more prominent studies that report breakthroughs in the quest to find a cure for cancer.
The Rats that Don't Get Cancer
Meet the cancer-resistant rat that some researchers think might bring us closer to a cure. For 50 years, researchers have been studying the cancer-resisting abilities of Spalax, or blind mole rats.
An article published in August 2013 in BMC Biology reports the results of 50 of the subjects.
They don't develop cancerous cells naturally. But even when they are artificially exposed to cancer, the blind mole rats' bodies are still able to kill the cancerous cells.
Researchers believe that getting to know more about the rats' ability to combat a disease that they are not normally prone to in the first place may provide key insights into how to fight cancer in humans.
Still, there is no evidence yet that these findings apply to humans. Stay tuned...
DCA: The Miracle Cure
DCA - dichloracetic acid - was touted as another miracle cure when studies conducted at the University of Alberta in Canada suggested that the chemical could slow the growth of certain types of cancer cells.
The results of the study were published in Cancer Cell back in January 2007, and, like the Spalax studies, immediately garnered lots of attention from the media.
DCA is typically used to remove warts and other skin growths, but it also has “shown some promise - for cancer treatment in lab studies, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
But it's not yet clear how or even if DCA could potentially be used as a cancer treatment or cure. Stay tuned again...
Here's Another Route Patients and Doctors Are Taking To Individual Cancer Risk
As cancer researchers work in the labs to find a cure for cancer, many patients and surgeons are taking matters into their own hands. The issue of preventive surgery to cure cancer for people with a strong genetic risk is a controversial topic. While having a genetic marker does not guarantee that you will get cancer, preventive surgery may still be the best option in some cases.
The most common preventive cancer surgeries include hysterectomies for women with a family history or cervical or ovarian cancer, and mastectomies for women with a strong family history of breast cancer.
Preventive surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes can reduce ovarian cancer by approximately 90 percent and the risk of breast cancer by approximately 50 percent in very high risk women.
Source: National Cancer Institute
If you think you are at an increased risk for these types of cancers because of genetics or family history, talk to your doctor about your options.
Meanwhile, there are other lifestyle choices that may not cure cancer, but they can certainly cut the risk:
- Avoiding all tobacco products
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Staying active
- Eating more fruits and veggies, less red meat
- Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink
- Avoiding tanning and using sunscreen
- Getting screened for cancer early