The fight against cancer has had some large victories in the past few decades, as more is understood about the reasons that cancers form and the nature of the cells themselves. This has been great for prevention, but also for diagnosis and treatment. This is especially true for people who are far from large communities with high-level hospitals and oncology centers. Where they once were forced to travel hundreds of miles and possibly several states away for so much as a diagnosis, new lab methods and communication technologies have helped to keep people from needing to move to a larger area before a cancer diagnosis is even confirmed.
One of the nicest things for people in remote areas (not to mention parents of potential urgent care case kids at 3AM) is the concept of a web diagnosis. Many insurance companies are subscribing to web medical services that allow simple diagnoses (the latest in a series of urinary tract infections or allergy attacks) to be made by video, and to avoid taking a long, inconvenient and costly trip to a faraway doctor when your pharmacy is nearby. This also works for visual confirmation of problems like funny moles, rashes that don’t seem right, etc. They can help to save people a needless trip which can be expensive and time consuming. For inhabitants of remote towns in places like Alaska, this can be a huge help.
Many small communities have access to a general practitioner, but not an oncologist or pathologist. In the past, if cancer was suspected, you would need to go to the hospital for the biopsy which would be fresh frozen to process. Today, there is also a formalin process that can be used to preserve tissue well enough to find cell mutations that are indicative of cancer. These FFPE samples don’t run the risk of arriving late to the doctor and being left out all night to melt before being put away, so they can be taken anywhere that the technology and skill exists to retrieve the tissue.
Though most of the active treatments in cancer patients continue to be in hospital, the care that post-op patients receive can be more remote these days, and can be guided with a local doctor and video consult by the overseeing oncologist. For patients who struggle to pay for medical care, this can mean fewer missed work days and a better sense of financial security through the illness.
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