Technology, an ally in the fight against cancer
Every February 4, the whole world unites around the world day in the fight against cancer to remind the whole of society of the importance of prevention and control of this disease.
Cancer causes a group of cells in the body to grow abnormally and uncontrolled, leading to the appearance of a lump or mass. This occurs in all types of cancers, except for leukemia. Hence, the important role that the awareness and sensitization against a disease which has increased progressively in recent years. According to data from the Spanish Association Against Cancer, in 2021 there were 285,530 new cases. Being 2.36 more than in 2020.
The advancement of technology in recent years has proven to be crucial in helping to prevent cancer. These types of innovations have made it possible to visualize, understand and treat the disease. Throughout this article, we tell you several examples of how technology helps detect cancer.
Early detection with biomarkers
It is called biomarkers to everything that health professionals can measure from a clinical point of view, such as in blood, in cerebrospinal fluid and, also, by means of imaging tests with magnetic resonance or positron emission tomography (imaging study) to detect cancer early.
In addition, biomarker tests provide information about the type of cancer, thanks to the identification of genes, proteins and other substances. In this way, it helps health workers to know what the best treatment is to deal with the disease. Early detection of biomarkers is considered to be one of the most effective technologies in the fight against cancer.
In fact, a few weeks ago, a team co led by scientists from the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) has identified a new biomarker of early diagnosis for pancreatic cancer most common, which is the third leading cause of cancer death in developed countries. In Spain, 8,700 cases were registered in 2021.
The use of Artificial Intelligence in the fight against cancer
One of the aspects that characterizes this type of disease is its complexity of diagnosis in the early stages, when it is easier to tackle the situation. In this sense, one of the technological innovations comes from the hand of Artificial Intelligence (AI) with deep learning.
It is a type of technology that, thanks to a set of algorithms, can learn to identify complex patterns on large amounts of data. This type of AI works in a similar way to neurons in the human brain, where researchers teach how to recognize words, numbers and shapes.
The goal is for Artificial Intelligence to help health professionals find the most appropriate treatment for each patient. According to some research, if a specific treatment could be adopted for each person, a more accurate prognosis could be made.
For example, in the case of people with brain tumors, the first step in treatment is usually surgery to remove as much of the tumor mass as possible. With those samples, doctors can accurately diagnose the tumor and see which parts of the brain tissue are healthy. However, obtaining the results entails a time process that, now in a new study with AI in combination with a advanced imaging technique brain tumors can be accurately diagnosed in less than 3 minutes and during surgery.
Cases of use of technology in diagnoses of different types of cancer
Continuing in line with the above and emphasizing the work that technology and prevention do in the fight against cancer, we inform you about three more advances.
Nearly more than one and a half million people die from lung cancer in the world. One of the reasons is that the 70% of diagnoses are lateso that current treatments are not enough to cure the disease when it is already advanced.
A CSIC researcher, Prisicila Kosaka, has developed a key technology for the early diagnosis of lung cancer. Using a blood test and very sensitive tiny devices, the system used detects the presence of a tumor from the first moment. This technology allows us to find the exact biomarker that is causing the disease.
As for breast cancer, the most diagnosed tumor in the world, different studies predict that one in twelve women will develop this disease throughout his life. According to the WHO, about half of breast cancer cases are in women without any identifiable risk factors. Between 0.5% and 1% of cases correspond to males.
Researchers from the CSIC and the Biomechanics Institute, among others, have developed a team that is capable of detect breast cancer up to a year earlier than other devices. The equipment is called Mammi and it allows to detect tumors of up to 2mm.
Another example of how technology has become an ally of society in detecting this disease in time revolves around the cervical cancer. It is the second most common cancer in women, behind breast cancer, with an incidence of 604,127 new cases in 2020 worldwide and nearly 2,000 in Spain.
Several researchers from the National Institute of Health and Global Good have developed a computer algorithm that can analyze digital images of the cervix and accurately recognize precancerous changes that need attention by a health professional. This technology has been called automated visual assessment.
Without a doubt, technology plays a fundamental role in the prevention and detection of cancer. But, it is our job to be aware of the warning signs of our body and, above all, pass the respective reviews. According to the WHO, it is estimated that between 30% and 50% of cancer cases are preventable, being key to reduce risk factor’s.