The cost of the cancer drugs which were approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) may simple prove unaffordable for some families. And no wonder, since a yearly average has been estimated to be $171,000.
But, what is even more disconcerting is that only a few of these have a proven positive effect. This leads the Americans to ask the question why. Yet, despite all of the research which was done on cancer, the real and legitimate answers are still lacking, and that leaves the patients with much to be desired.
– The drug approval made by the FDA
The drug companies are obliged to first test any new potential drug on animal subjects, before they move on the testing on the humans.
This is done for testing the safety and efficiency of the drug. In the case that the testing done on animals yields positive results, and the next logical step is to see whether it has the same positive effects on human subjects too.
Such an effect could be extending the life expectancy of cancer for example.
Before some drug company can sell the new drug it has on the market, it is first required that it sends their test results to the FDA so they can be reviewed. This happens through the CDER (Center for Drug Evaluation and Research).
The job of the CDER is to make sure that the brand name, as well as generic drugs work as they should, and that there are not any serious health risks involved in them. But this center can only test the effectiveness, as well as the quality of the drug, meaning that it does not do any drugs tests.
Because of the professional team composed of chemists, physicians, pharmacologists and statisticians that the CDER offers, the results have a high chance of being completely unbiased. When CDER has approved the drug, the FDA also does that, in that way making it safe for selling.
– How effective is chemotherapy?
This is a procedure most often used together with some other treatments for cancer. An Australian research team wanted to know just how useful the chemotherapy is on its own, particularly when it comes to the survival rate of the patient.
Unluckily, when it comes to the chances of surviving 5 years after only undergoing chemotherapy, they were rather small. This data was taken from USA and Australia from the years between 1990 and 2004.
When one compares it with the Australia’s 60% survival chances, when it comes to just chemotherapy, it is a staggeringly low 2%.
However, another thing which should be noted is that the results varied depending on the type of the cancer in question, as well as at which stage it was. For example, with stomach cancer, the survival rate was 1% while in the case of testicular cancer an astounding difference of 41.8%. The reason for this is that some types of cancer react more easily to chemotherapy than others do.
The five cancers which are more sensitive to chemotherapy are Hodgkin’s disease, cervix, and ovary, testis and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. With these five, the survival rate of 5 years solely due to cytotoxic chemotherapy was 14% back in 1998.
The conclusion from all this is that there are instances where the chemotherapy can be effective by itself. This especially happens when it comes to the chemo – sensitive cancers. However, those which are only accounted for 8.4% of the incidence back in 1998 in Australia.
– It is not like there is a shortage of chemotherapy side – effects
Whether it is on a physical or emotional level, it is a fact that the chemotherapy has its fair share of some difficulties and side – effects as well.
Some of these may go away as soon as the treatment ends and others may very well last as long as months, years or for the remainder of the patient’s life.
Here, we are going to present you a list of all the complications that may happen:
– Hair loss;
– Constipation or diarrhea;
– Mood swings;
– Nausea and vomiting;
– Changes in appetite;
– Changes on the skin and nails (such as pigmentation or excess dryness);
– Easy bleeding and bruising;
– Damage to healthy cells (especially in the gut, reproductive system, mouth, hair follicles and bone marrow);
– Kidney issues and changes in urine;
– Fertility issues and lowered libido;
– Issues in your mouth, tongue or throat (such as sores or difficulty swallowing);
– Muscle and nerve issues (pain, tingling, and numbness).
The thing which is surprising is that according to Dr. Jones, those who refuse to undergo chemotherapy live on an average 12 and a half years longer. In fact, those people who have decided for chemotherapy usually die within just three years of diagnosis. Another thing which is more depressing is that a huge number dies only after a few weeks.
– FDA and its approval of cancer drugs
In spite of the approval of FDA for potential chemotherapy or cancer drugs, it’s officials do not seem to have anything against the lack of current evidence, when it comes to survival improvement.
The director of FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence, Dr. Richard Pazdur has stated that cancers could grow at both slow and quick rates.
So, because of the varied speeds of growth, it will take more time for the studies to find out whether a specific drug will improve the chances of longer survival.
But, the reason behind the rushed the rushed approval without knowing too much information on a drug, is largely because the FDA wants the patients to benefit from them and have them at their disposal as soon as possible.
It sounds too risky? Well, it is a risk which they are ready to take, since most of the patients with cancer do not have that long to live either way. It is the harsh truth.
But, the doctor has also explained that some newer and more directed treatments could extend the lives of patients by years instead of just months. For example, there’s immunotherapy, which, as its name suggests, stimulates the immune systems of cancer patients.
This is in order to achieve some natural combating of cancer cells. One positive example of this is that, in patients with advanced melanoma, these immunotherapy drugs have contributed to the increase of survival chances from 5% to as much as 30-40%.
And although, when one looks at the big picture, something like this may not seem so significant. The senior vice president and chief medical officer of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Dr.
Richard Schilsky says that there is no undermining the progress made so far.
There has been quite the commotion concerning these immunotherapy drugs, and not without good reason either.
For the case of metastasized cancers, chemotherapy is almost always the first option. But, it is not rare either for other treatments to be used in combination with it. If one person choose to undergo chemotherapy by itself, there are certain factors that one person needs to take into consideration.
The stage in which the cancer is, the type of cancer, depend on each individual’s health status. But also, some other past medical history is among other things. The Cancer Journal for Clinicians has published a detailed review on June 2016, concerning the recent studies on cancer therapies and survival statistics across the USA.
This data for analyzing was taken from two sources: The SEER Program, and the NCDB (the National Cancer Data Base).
Most of the worth nothing is the data on comparing specific cancer types, and also the various methods and combinations which are used for the treatment. Particularly in the case of breast cancer, there was a reported improvement in survival rates.
This happens thanks to a few factors: chemotherapy, targeted drugs, and hormone therapy, but also thanks to the increased awareness which leads to earlier detection and the widespread use of mammography.
As a result of all these, there has been an improvement in the last three decades when it comes to the general five – year survival rate for female suffering from breast cancer.
For the sake of being more specific, the five-year, ten-year and fifteen-year breast cancer survival rates are 89%, 83%, and 78%, respectively.
– Here are some helpful graphs
The first one shows the female cancer treatments divided by which stage the cancer has reached.
The second one is for bladder cancers, also following the division of treatment patterns.
Thanks to these graphs and statistics, the range of available treatments is plain to see. They also help us in understanding that there are different types of chemotherapy reactions which vary greatly depending on the type of cancer.
It also allows us to see that most often there should be a combination of treatments, not only chemotherapy.
– The quality of life is also important for cancer survivors
From the first of January in 2016, the USA has had over 15 ½ million cancer survivors. According to some research, there are predications that by 2026 the USA will have had over 20 million.
One of the main objectives of the American Cancer Society’s Facts and Figures (2016-2017) is to make sure that those patients with cancer have a high – quality during and after the treatment.
But, there are many things which should be kept in mind when we start considering just what a high – quality life is:
– Psychological (or emotional) health;
– Physical health;
– Spiritual health;
– Social health.
But of course that the quality of life can vary from person to person, and there is no a universal definition for it. Instead, here are some statistics offered for comparison:
– Because of some physical issues, about 25% of those people who survived cancer reported a lowered quality of life;
– It is the same thing with other 10%, with the difference being in emotional issues;
– Cancer survivors for over 5 years have reported having and emotional health similar to those people who have never had cancer;
– Many cancer survivors for over 5 years have reported a lowered physical health when compared to those people who have never had cancer;
– Generally, those who have gone through more aggressive and invasive therapies, as well as treatments, have reported a lowered quality of life overall.
– Bottom line?
Even though the FDA can sometimes approve certain chemotherapy drugs which prove ineffective in the long run, they also make sure to remove that one from the market whose side – effects overshadow the benefits.
Also, in some situations, the patients are not so much upset over the side – effects of the drugs, but they are mostly upset at the little extra time they are given (usually months).
But, after all, there is some hope in all this. Immunotherapy is slowly rising in power as an effective targeted drug with some promising potential for the future.
Also, with the move of the medicine and technology on, while not necessarily curing cancer, these new and improved drugs may very well lengthen the lives of patients to a great extent, as well as assuring more quality living.