“I can remember days when I was in medical school here in Kansas City, not that long ago, where we didn’t have treatment options for patients with hepatitis C,” said David Wild, a physician with University of Kansas Medical Center. “It would progress to cirrhosis and ultimately liver failure, and they would die in the hospital.”
“I think there are situations where we’ve all but eradicated diseases,” Wild said. “Even within the past 20 years, malaria for most of the world, is really not an issue. It might be in third-world countries, but definitely not our part of the world. I think our ability to offer vaccines, the targeted vaccines for even things like chickenpox has changed dramatically the quality of life that people in the United States have.
That isn’t the case anymore for the majority of patients with hepatitis C, thanks to medical advances in treatments.
A diagnosis of hepatitis C was often a death sentence for patients 15 to 20 years ago.
Wild said some of the most obvious advances have been in cancer treatments.
“We’ve been able to, over the last 20 years to provide very targeted radiation therapy, very targeted chemo therapy for specific cancers that has changed the way we provide treatments and changed the outcome of the results of treatment for patients,” he said. “And really maybe just in the last two or three or four years, we’ve really started to be able to provide therapy, treatment for cancer specific to that patient. Where we charge up, if you will, their immune system by their own specific cancer. I think that is likely to be the largest area of advancement in the next two or three years among cancer treatment.
The disease, a blood-borne viral infection that can lead to liver damage and chronic health problems, affects about 3.9 million people in the United States but is no longer fatal if treated properly.
In regard to treating heart disease, Wild also noted that what used to be done in the operating room can often be done now with a minimally invasive surgery.