At the age of 35, Molly Meisenheimer was already planning her funeral. Her battle with breast cancer was taking a toll on her body. She had to have a mastectomy.
The married mother of two was distraught, clueless, and horrified. Cancer didn't run in her family, and she considered herself to be in great health before she was diagnosed.
"It was a real shock when I found a lump in my breast," Meisenheimer recalled. "Cancer was scary. I felt like I had been hit in the head with a load of bricks or something. I didn't really understand all of the new terminology I had to learn."
Treatment from Dr. C. Michael Jones at the Jones Clinic enabled Meisenheimer to ultimately triumph in her battle with breast cancer.
The Jones Clinic is offering clinical trials for new cancer treatments at essentially no cost to people who can't afford it. Execution of the trials enables oncologists to determine what new treatment options may be most effective and beneficial for patients. Breast, lung, colon, and pancreatic are among the forms of cancer eligible for the Jones Clinic trials.
Last week, Dr. Jones discussed the state of cancer treatment in the Mid-South during an informational session at the Jones Clinic.
Jones said that the use of personalized medicine and immunotherapy treatment would make a significant impact on the state of cancer this year. Through the two approaches, doctors are able to look at the genetic mutations in a cancer patient and then tailor drugs and treatment for that individual and their condition.
The strategies could eliminate the possibility for cancerous tumors to recur in patients and also for patients to experience toxic side effects.
"There are some drugs now that block the body's and the tumor's ability to evade the immune system by your body recognizing that it's foreign," Jones said. "When you think about it, cancer really rises from your own cells. And those cells have mechanisms to avoid the immune system. There are ways now to block those so that your body recognizes those as being foreign."
The Jones Clinic is an independent oncology practice, and cancer treatment provided there is significantly cheaper than treatment offered at area hospitals.
According to IMS Health, patients pay an average $134 more per dose for commonly used oncology drugs in hospitals than at independent practices. Independent oncology practices are especially helpful for people with low-incomes and inadequate access to health care.
Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the nation. It accounts for nearly one of every four deaths, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
This year, 1,658,370 new cancer cases are estimated to be diagnosed in the nation. Of this amount, 589,430 are expected to succumb to the disease, according to the ACS. More than 38,000 of these deaths are estimated to occur in Tennessee.
Although cancer remains a massive burden, Jones said oncologists are able to do a lot more now to combat the disease thanks to advances in medicine and technology.
"Cancer survival rates in the U.S. continue to improve," Jones said. "It's no longer a death sentence."