Reported by Liu Chia-Yun and Huang An-Chi form Taipei
Cancer is spreading at a record-breaking speed; and the number of newly diagnosed cancer patients is also on the rise. However, the mortality rate is slowing down. Cancers used to be associated with death. Now, as medical knowledge advances, cancers are no longer terminal. There are an array of treatment choices for cancers, from chemotherapies, target treatments and the latest precision medicines. Patients’ new challenge is about the choices of treatments and their huge price tag.
Dr Wang Cheng-Hsu, President of the Hope Foundation for Cancer Patients, pointed out that the increase of the population of cancer patients is an inevitable trend in the next 20-30 years due to factors such as environment and lifestyle. Fortunately, the medical advance helps to control the mortality rate. As cancers are no longer fatal, patients have to learn to live with cancers.
Dr Yeh Shih-Peng, Director of the Department of Hematology of CMUH, expressed that the conventional chemotherapies work on cancer cells and have a higher risk of side effects. The target treatments work on specific genes or proteins found in cancer cells or in cells related to cancer growth. Taking the first target cancer therapy, Glivec, for example, it helps patients control their conditions of myeloid leukemia like a chronic disease. However, there are issues of drug resistance. Patients need to continue receiving new generations of treatments whose costs are usually high, at least NT$200,000 a month. Patients are often struggling between treatments and financial viability.
As for lung cancer treatments, Dr Tsai Jun-Min of the Taipei VGH pointed out that the effects of target treatments vary from patient to patient due to the complexity of the mutation of genes associated with lung cancer. The development in the next-generation gene sequencing may help patients to find the most appropriate treatments. But, this technology is not yet mature and the cost is sky high, about NT$250,000 for one test.
Dr Wang said that family history, genes, pollution in the environment, diet, pressure, etc. are all risk factors for cancers. The spreading of cancers is an inevitable problem faced by all countries. Cancers can happen to anyone. Exercise regularly, keep a balanced diet, have a healthy life style and have regular health checks will help reduce the risk of cancers, suggested Dr Wang.
【2017-05-05/ United Daily】