By Dr. Brian McDonough

By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There was a time when people thought of cancer as “cancer”. It was a word that could not be said out loud. Ask someone seventy or older and they will tell you that the word struck terrible fear in people’s hearts.

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I am not saying that cancer is something to be taken lightly but there is no doubt that the major advances of the last fifteen years have changed the perception of most of us. In some cases there are treatments that can result in complete remission and in others the treatment can extend lives.

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Another key development is the fact that not all of the treatments have as many side effects. Chemotherapy is designed to kill cancer cells but it also kills healthy cells. That is why people lose hair or have stomach issues.

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Many of the treatments today actually attack the cancer cells in a more targeted approach. This helps eliminate many of the side effects.