According to the American Cancer Society, in 2018 there will be an estimated 56,590 new cancer cases diagnosed in Michigan and 21,380 cancer-related deaths. The unfortunate reality is that the effects of cancer are felt by families throughout our community.
For those currently on their cancer journey or those with a loved one recently diagnosed, here are six reasons why, we believe, you should remain hopeful in the face of such a scary illness.
- Cancer deaths are declining -Cancer deaths since 1991 have fallen 26% in the United States. Due to significant improvements in cancer prevention, detection and treatment, people are living much longer with cancer and are beating cancer at greater rates.
- Access to screenings -More than ever before, we are encouraging our patients to adopt healthier lifestyles early in life, identifying those at high risk for developing cancer, and improving access to screenings so that we can detect cancer early, when treatment is most effective.
- Experienced tumor boards – At. St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea, experienced specialists from a wide range of medical disciplines meet several times weekly in specialized disease specific “tumor boards” to strategize how best to treat each patient’s cancer. The collective wisdom and experience of a team of physicians leads to a deeper understanding of each patient’s individual situation, improves the coordination of treatments, and increases the patient’s chances of having a positive outcome.
- Access to cancer fighting technology -Here in Chelsea, we now have access to the same advanced cancer fighting technology found in large academic cancer centers. From surgery to chemotherapy and radiation, everything you need to fight your cancer battle is now available close to home. This includes access to a TrueBeam™ linear accelerator, CT simulator and computerized equipment capable of tailoring treatment to each patient. As a member of Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea also provides access to regional resources in Ann Arbor, including genetic counseling, and specialized surgical and radiotherapy equipment such as CyberKnife®.
- New Treatments – Through the advancement in medical technology and genomic profiling of cancer tumors, we can now target specific tumor mutations and manipulate the immune system to provide a variety of new treatment options. One new treatment available, immunotherapy, re-educates the patient’s immune system to naturally identify and fight cancer cells more effectively. Another new treatment is targeted therapy, which allows physicians to use specific information about a tumor’s DNA to prescribe medicines that target and destroy cancerous cells, while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue — unlike traditional chemotherapy which can be much more destructive.
- Access to cancer trials – St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea is a member of the Michigan Cancer Research Consortium, one of the top rated community cancer research programs in the country.The clinical trials program offers access to more than 100 clinical trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. These trials were previously only available at large research institutions. These clinical trials go above and beyond the benefits of currently approved therapies to build on a patient’s current treatment success and to achieve a better outcome. For many patients, we recommend participation in a cancer trial because today’s trial is often tomorrow’s cure. Trials available can explore symptom management and methods of improving quality of life in addition to screening and prevention trials.
We encourage everyone in our community to be proactive in their health and to ask their primary care physician when to be screened for certain types of cancer. If the day ever comes that you or a loved one is diagnosed, find hope and comfort in knowing you have access to leading cancer experts and treatment close to home, including support of a cancer nurse navigator by calling 734-712-HOPE.
Elie Dib, MD, FACP, is a board certified hematologist oncologist on staff at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. He has been in practice since 2006 and has a special interest in treating cancer using innovative new therapies, including immunotherapy and targeted therapy.
Julie Soriano, MD, is a board certified radiation oncologist. She has been in practice since 2003 and has been a credentialed member of the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System medical staff since 2013.