Oncology, a very unfamiliar branch of medicine to most laypeople a couple of decades back, has become one that is constantly heard in today’s world. Why is that? In 1990, that is not very long back, 5.75 million people died from cancer. In 2017, almost 10 million people died from cancer. Just a mild application of thought can tell you what may be the reasons that may be attributed with this jump in number of cancer deaths even with such advancements in the medical field. Ofcourse, increased use of chemicals in everyday life may not be the only reason to be held responsible, but maybe the leading one.
Oncology is a field of medicine that deals with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. And cancer is a group of diseases that involves abnormal cell growth that can potentially invade or spread to other parts of the body. These are called malignant tumors. So the word oncology is coined from the greek work ‘ongkos’, meaning ‘a burden or a mass’ and ‘logos’ meaning ‘study’.
The fact that chances of cancer survival has improved over the years cannot be ignored. This is mainly due to increased awareness against the exposure to risk factors like tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption, improved screening of several cancers which means diagnosing at a much earlier stage and lastly, improvements in treatment.
The fact that treatments are not completely successful has to be kept in mind. Cancer therapy itself uses harmful substances. But this is a necessary evil to combat cancer. These therapies along with the cancerous cells also damage healthy tissues and may promote emergence or more aggressive cancer cells or even new types of cancers. Many advanced cancers return and cancers that relapse are even more resistant to treatment and usually are more aggressive. This is because of evolutionary mechanisms found in these cells. This is why treatment of cancer is a tricky business and we often have to leave a lot to mere chance and luck.
However research is extremely active in the field of oncology and newer and more promising techniques are on the rise. One such treatment method is the ‘adaptive therapy’ and involves reducing the tumor burden and not completely eliminating it. It is still early days for such treatments but better days are definitely coming soon. Hence, oncology is an evolving science that deals with many volatile factors and instabilities. But this is a very essential science in order for the health and mortality of the human race.