Long-term cancer management and control

There is no cure for diabetes or osteoporosis or high blood pressure.  But there are effective drug therapies for those conditions – therapies that allow patients to live for years.  It is possible that in the future cancer treatment will look like that.  This may be the way forward for management of cancers that currently are intractable.  The cancer will not be cured but it will be controlled and not allowed to dominate the patient’s life.

Even today many  patients live for years with cancer.  In the future it is likely that a higher percentage of cases will turn into those long cases.  Cancer will be a chronic condition.

patient with cancer and caregiverWhat method would this long-term management take?  Well, it is unlikely to consist of regular surgery or radiation.  Some form of medicine – antineoplastic drugs – will probably be involved, or hormone therapy.  Patients will have to undergo regular exams, cancer screenings which may include biopsies. A supervising doctor should get reports of symptoms, whether or not they can be linked to cancer.

If tests or scans show that the cancer is not changing, it may be called “controlled” or “stable”.

Sometimes cancers are said to be in remission.  Partial remission means the tumor is smaller and less threatening to the patient’s overall health, and could be a chronic disease.  Complete remission means there is no sign of the cancer left.

Metronomic chemotherapy and adaptive chemotherapy are sometimes given to patients years after the main treatment.

Oncology nurses and case managers are still trying to understand the “seasons of survivorship” that people often experience years after remission.