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 uncontrollably, giving rise to the appearance of a lump or mass. This occurs in all types of cancers, except for leukemia. Hence, the relevant role of awareness and sensitization against disease 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 will tell you several examples of how technology helps to detect cancer.
Early detection with biomarkers
Biomarkers are called 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). for early detection of cancer.
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 early diagnostic biomarker for the most common pancreatic cancer, which is the third leading cause of cancer death in countries developed. 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 in 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, for people with brain tumors, the first step in treatment is often 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 takes a time process, now in a new study with AI in combination with an advanced imaging technique it is possible to accurately diagnose brain tumors 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 70% of diagnoses are late, so current treatments are not enough to cure the disease when it is already advanced.
A CSIC researcher, Priscila Kosaka, has developed a key technology for the early diagnosis of lung cancer. Through 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 their lives. 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 Institute of Biomechanics, among others, have developed a device that is capable of detecting breast cancer up to a year earlier than other devices. The equipment is called Mammi and it allows to detection of tumors of up to 2mm.
Another example of how technology has become an ally of society in detecting this disease in time revolves around 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.
Researchers at the National Institutes 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 from 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, to pass the respective check-ups. According to the WHO, it is estimated that between 30% and 50% of cancer cases are preventable, and reducing risk factors is key.