On the 7th of each month, we at WDAM "pink up" for breast cancer awareness. We sat down with a cancer specialist in Laurel for a conversation about where things stand now, and what lies ahead in the struggle against cancer.
Dr. Nikhil Mukhi, hematologist and medical oncologist at South Central Cancer Center in Laurel, said the approach to cancer treatment has come a long way.
“Back in the days we all talked about treating cancer and trying to find a cure,” he said. “As time goes on, we've learned that it's not a matter of treating cancer. We're treating people now, and every person is different. Every person's cancer is different. We don't necessarily have to treat everyone the same way."
Cancer treatments can vary from person to person, depending on the type and stage of cancer.
“For one person we may focus on helping them get rid of cancer as soon as possible," Mukhi said. "In another person, the cancer may be too advanced, and we know that the purpose of our treatment is going to be to make them as comfortable as we can and help them spend time with their family and get back to things that they like doing.”
Is there anything particular on the horizon that gives him hope?
“To be honest, the cancer landscape is expanding so rapidly, and with every year we're finding new treatments that are giving us hope towards cure," he said. "Just to give you one example, three years ago, if a person came in to see me with lung cancer, I would probably offer them eight months to live. Lung cancer, that spreads to different parts of their body. And today the landscape has increased life to in excess of two years. And we're seeing people that are even cured from that same cancer. The biggest development we've had in the past few years is immunotherapy."
What exactly is immunotherapy?
“Immunotherapy is a combination of medications that stimulate your own body to fight against the cancer," Mukhi said. "And this has really changed the landscapes of a lot of different cancers. So it gives us hope that even though we're making slow progress, we're sort of getting to the goal where we can eventually talk about curing the majority of our patients.”
And what can loved ones do to support cancer patients?
“I think the first thing and the most important thing is that no one can really understand what a cancer patient has to go through when they hear that news,” he said. “And it's a big process getting better, and having to go through all that treatment, and this is a very critical time in their life and they need support. They need people who can understand that they can get angry at times, they don't want to do things, and that's part of what they're going through. I think having a good family support is very critical in cancer care.”
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