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The Future of Cancer Care Is Personal

Monica M. Bertagnolli, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.A.S.C.O.

President, American Society of Clinical Oncology

The future of cancer looks brighter than ever before. Research and innovation are helping doctors deepen their understanding of this disease and treat it precisely.

The challenges ahead

However, we are just getting started with personalized cancer care. Challenges stand in the way of our goal, which is a world where cancer is prevented or cured. Some challenges require new knowledge that will allow us to identify the best treatment for each patient. Others come from elements of our society that dictate how health care is delivered. Personalized cancer care requires that we address barriers that are impeding access to high-quality cancer care.

I recently met with a cancer patient living in rural Ohio who has no car or access to public transportation. Research shows that her prognosis is not as good as a patient living in a mid-sized city just two hours away. In my own practice, I’ve had patients skip medication doses and doctor visits for financial reasons, trading their health to pay their rent. It is our duty to address such inequities so that every patient can get access to high-quality cancer care and benefit from the latest treatment.

The new status quo

The future of cancer care requires that we examine not only cancer as a disease, but also as the daily realities facing patients. The latest treatments and new technologies are one piece of the puzzle. The other piece is addressing patients’ needs from the moment of diagnosis through treatment and beyond. Barriers such as exclusion from research participation, rising costs of care and challenges of location can prevent patients from getting the best possible care.

Together, doctors and patients can refuse to accept this as the status quo.

Our nation’s cancer doctors are recommitting themselves as partners and advocates to ensure every patient has access to the cancer care that reflects their individual needs and community complexities. With the help of the cancer community, we can work together to tackle the obstacles and ensure quality cancer care.

The future of cancer is bright, and more people are surviving cancer than ever before. By 2026 the number of cancer survivors will grow from 15 to 20 million people. I’m confident that we can save even more lives if we care for patients as individuals and pair innovative treatment with positive support systems.

Only then can cancer care become truly personalized.

Monica M. Bertagnolli, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.A.S.C.O., President, American Society of Clinical Oncology, [email protected]

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