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A New Diagnostic And Treatment Method For Cancer

Jun 5, 2008
Cancer is the diagnosis that causes the most payouts from life insurance companies. It is one of the biggest killers and causes a major problem to our health because the symptoms are often vague until the later stages or mistaken for other ailments. However, things could be changing with a breakthrough from the medical world.

Photodynamic Therapy, or PDT, is a gentle, effective treatment for cancer that promises to produce less harsh side effects than conventional treatment through surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Trials are taking place in one clinic at the moment using PDT that is a system that diagnoses and kills cancer cells working on light. Drugs are used in various forms and activated by light such as in the case of skin cancer. A cream containing the active drug is rubbed onto the affected area and starts to work when exposed to lights.

The light exposure makes the drug create a form of oxygen that destroys the tumour while not harming the surrounding tissue and producing little more than a tingling sensation. This is a major breakthrough in the treatment of cancer and for those whose life insurance covers critical illness, should be available on a much wider basis very soon.

For cancers within the body, the same principle can be applied providing a light source is able to reach the designated area via an endoscope. A drug is taken by the patient and after a period of 24 hours to allow time for absorption from the blood stream by the tumour, light is then shone on the affected area by insertion of the flexible tube. Less than an hour later, the patient is on their way home.

Although the treatment has been used for a while in one specialist hospital, the difference now is that it can be used to diagnose and treat in one swift move and will be more widely available. This will shorten the whole nerve-racking process of taking biopsies and waiting for results, thus reducing the patients stress levels and also recovery times.

The diagnostic process is carried out by directing a beam of light to the suspect area. Like an optical radar, and particularly useful in the area of breast cancer and cervical cancer, the light that then bounces back is analysed by a computer and the changes are reported. It is thought to be around 95 per cent accurate and will be good news for life insurance companies as well as the patients themselves.

The light bouncing method is called Elastic Scattering Spectroscopy and is able to diagnose cancers immediately. Another technique, under the title 'fluorescent spectroscopy and imaging' works on the basis that cancer cells reflect more of a certain light than non-cancerous cells leading to an instant diagnosis and treatment.

Currently licensed for use in suspected cancers of the skin, head, neck and oesophagus it is also very cost effective, generally a quarter of the price of the usual treatment. With the cost factor, as well as the fact that it makes cancer treatment so much easier, it comes as a surprise that it has not been more widely used in recent times. However, now with the backing of more influential cancer experts it promises to be used more frequently and offers hope to many who would have normally been claiming on their life insurance.

Only seven per cent of lung cancer patients survive more than five years after diagnosis, making it a big area of payout for life insurance. PDT is a viable way of swiftly diagnosing and treating this fatal disease and will be seen as the life saver that it is. Reducing the incidents of this disease will mean, hopefully, that life insurance premiums can be reduced for us all. Or that life insurance companies will be making more profits, more like. A minor concern I imagine, giving the amount of lives that will be saved once this treatment becomes widely accessible.
About the Author
Health expert Catherine Harvey looks at the new scientific advancements that should help reduce life insurance premiums for us all.
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