Image of the Long Beach MemorialCare Todd Cancer Pavilion lit up at night

For many Americans, cancer is the most feared diagnosis. Yet, thanks to significant advances and preventive measures, the numbers of cancers are declining.

To learn more about treatments and prevention, Smart Business spoke to Jack Jacoub, M.D., hematologist/oncologist and medical director, thoracic oncology program at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, and Moses Kim, M.D., Ph.D., urologist and specialist in robotic cancer surgery at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente.

What causes cancer?

While causes are unknown, research is helping identify causes and cures. Since different cancers have different risk factors, understanding these risk factors can help in prevention. Fortunately, some risk factors — like not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and diet, and getting plenty of exercise — help reduce your risk of cancer.

Other risk factors — age, ethnicity, family history and inherited genes — cannot be changed. Genetic counseling services help patients determine their risk for diseases that can be inherited, including colon, uterine, breast and ovarian cancer.

Any family with higher than expected numbers of cancer cases may benefit from our Hereditary Cancer Risk Assessment consultation.

Why are the rates declining?

Screenings such as pap smears to detect cervical cancer, colonoscopies to identify colon cancer and PSA tests to determine the likelihood and treatment of prostate cancer are examples. Laws that restrict smoking and education on its associated risks are stemming lung cancer. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can reduce onset of cancer.

Vaccines like those used to prevent cervical cancer in women may be effective in other cancers as well. Emerging treatment technologies, techniques and drug discoveries continue to help us more accurately treat cancer, and with fewer side effects.

Can we access these advances locally?

The MemorialCare Cancer Institutes at Orange Coast Memorial and Saddleback Memorial Medical Centers offer the most advanced and latest technologies, therapies and treatments in Orange County and have achieved national accreditation by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer as comprehensive community cancer programs. These range from genetic counseling and comprehensive screenings and diagnostic services to the most sophisticated radiation oncology programs — and include the region’s only hospital-sited CyberKnife robotic radiosurgery system and advanced radiation oncology treatment centers.

Our MemorialCare Breast Centers screen more patients for breast cancer than any other program in the county; and our physicians also are highly regarded specialists in lung, prostate, brain, spine and other cancers. We are dedicated to early diagnosis, research, treatment and education of patients with cancer or serious blood disorders. Cancer patients have access to ongoing cancer research protocols and a wide variety of support services. Through the interdisciplinary treatment planning conferences, specialists review new or difficult cases and can develop treatment plans suited to each patient’s specific needs.

What can we expect in the future?

Myriad cancer therapies and treatments are in varying stages of development as researchers continue to learn more about cancer cell biology and new treatment options.

Pharmaceuticals are being created to better kill tumors by cutting off their blood supply. There is hope that therapeutic vaccines might help harness a patient’s immune system. Gene sequencing looks for specific DNA mutations that occur with different types of cancers. The ability to identify those mutations may lead to new treatments. Physicians are beginning to use knowledge gained by research to look at an individual’s family history DNA to predict cancer risk. Personalized screening for those at higher risk will help catch cancer at its earliest signs.

Doctors will be better able to customize treatment, choosing the most effective treatment and avoiding those that will not work.

How can employers help?

Encourage your work force to take advantage of cancer screenings. Initiate wellness programs. These can be as simple as ensuring worksite eating places and vending machines offer healthy food, offering exercise tips and providing pedometers to use during breaks and mealtimes.

Partner with your local hospital cancer center to offer onsite education. This website provides online risk assessments and tools as well as a wealth of information on cancer prevention, screenings, diagnosis and treatments.

Jack Jacoub, M.D., is a hematologist/oncologist and medical director, thoracic oncology program at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center. Moses Kim, M.D., Ph.D., is a urologist and specialist in robotic cancer surgery at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center.