We personalize almost everything else, so why wouldn’t our health care be the same? Precision medicine allows health care providers to customize treatment options based on patients’ individual genes and lifestyle.
Precision medicine is a recent approach that considers individual differences in genes, environment, and lifestyle to determine treatment and prevention. Obtaining all this information allows doctors and researchers to cater a more accurate course of treatment for a particular disease to a specific person. This is different from the usual “one-size-fits-all” approach to medicine. While the term is quite new, the concept has been present throughout health care for a while. For example, a blood transfusion cannot just be given from a random donor. There needs to be a search for a matching blood type. This is precision medicine working throughout day-to-day healthcare.
It was previously known as “personalized medicine”; however, that term was abandoned because personalized medicine can lead people to think that medications and procedures would be developed for the use of a single person when that is not the case. Precision medicine refers to categorizing patients by their susceptibility to a specific disease, or their reactions to treatment.
Treating cancer has been significantly impacted by this approach. To discover who is most likely to get cancer, genetic testing has been an important tool. Similarly, knowing that information about genetics can lead to a proactive approach in lowering the chances of getting that type of cancer. Tumors can also be used to determine how a specific cancer should be treated based on your genetics. The approach is used to treat lung cancer, melanoma (skin cancer), colon cancer, and pancreatic cancer, as well as rare childhood illnesses, cystic fibrosis, and HIV.
Precision Medicine Initiative
In 2015, President Obama launched the $200 million Precision Medicine Initiative due to precision medicine being such an effective approach to health care. The initiative focused on two goals. The first was to “jumpstart advanced research into personalized treatments, genomic testing, and rare diseases.” The second was “to enhance patient engagement and participation in the medical research process as a way of generating better data and more effective care”. To make medicine more effective for the individual, all areas of the medical field are coming together and joining research.
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