Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Technology Aiding Healthcare

Back in 1996, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I had no clue who I was pitched against in this battle. All I knew was that it involved surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to fight cancer. I did not know much about the technical terms I was coming across back then.
Later on, year after year of survival, I realized there are lot more terms in breast cancer that I had no clue about when I was diagnosed and went through the treatment. ER positive/negative, PR positive/negative or triple negative were some terms which I had no clue about.
Later when I heard about BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, I was in denial that cancer can be genetic, since, if yes, then it meant I would have got it from my mother. I did not want to feel that way. Though there were hints with my sister, my mother and myself being diagnosed with breast cancer, I did not want to accept the fact. But it lead me to read more in detail about inherited mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 and how they increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers in women. It was new information for me to know that these genetic mutations are associated with higher risks of many different cancers. Hereditary breast cancer was an unacceptable but genuine bitter pill for me to swallow.
Finally, I put up enough courage to go ahead with the mutation testing. The reports came back stating that I was BRCA2 positive. Since breast cancers associated with BRCA1 and BRCA2 tend to develop at younger ages than the nonhereditary types, it explained my own diagnosis at the age of 29 and my sister’s diagnosis at the age of 30.
 With more research and understanding of cancer, I realized the need of technology in healthcare to fight cancer the right way. Back in 1996, I thought total radical mastectomy was the best way for me to fight cancer, even though my doctor gave me an option of breast conservation. Now I realize that at the age of 29, I need not have surrendered my whole breast. Though I have learned to live with prosthesis, sometimes I do miss the symmetry of my body.
There are lot of organizations today, like Tempus, who with their team of innovators are obsessed with developing breakthroughs in how we tackle diseases the right way. This will highly customize the treatment that the patients receive.
One of the most prominent question in most of the people going through cancer treatment is regarding the outcome of the treatment. Usually we do not get definite answers to our questions. Fortunately, today the advanced image recognition algorithms extract key image characteristics from radiology and pathology images to create imaging data sets to better measure outcomes and to inform predictions. Though life is quite unpredictable, it is nice to know where we stand in this battle for our life.
I am aware that today after being a cancer survivor for 22 years, that data analyses plays an important role in the outcome of treatment results. I realize that something like sequencing services and analyses of somatic and germline molecular data along with therapeutic data will empower those dedicated physicians to make better data-driven decisions to give those fighting cancer a better chance of living quality life for a longer period of time. Technology will give us the edge over cancer. Innovative and breakthrough technics like Bioinformatics system delivers accurate variant cells of genomic and transcriptomic data. Further, classification platform combines complex algorithms with a robust set of curated databases to enable experts to make fast and thorough decisions, all in the context of a patient's case. This new approach to next-generation sequencing aided by modern technology will give doctors today an access to a variety of sequencing capabilities, all with full transcriptome and tumor/normal match which will customize treatment for a specific patient and target the cancer cells more accurately.
After 22 years of survival, though my risk of recurrence has come down tremendously, it still gives me more courage and hope that with present developments in cancer treatment, I can fight it off if it ever makes a come back again. Thanks to all the people who are trying to make cancer treatment more successful.
I have lost my mother and my sister to breast cancer. I hope technology and dedicated research to fight cancer will prevent others from losing their loved ones to this disease.


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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