Precision medicine may sound like a new term, but the concept has been around for years. According to the US National Library of Medicine, precision medicine is “an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.”
Though the approach is emerging, the concept is not. Think of it this way: when someone needs a blood transfusion, they’re not given blood from a randomly selected person. Instead, to reduce the risk of complications, the blood type of the recipient and donor are matched.
Benefits of Precision Medicine
Precision medicine can help you protect your health and navigate health conditions by:
- Knowing your family health history
A family history of certain diseases can increase your risk for developing a disease. By knowing your family health history, you can help your doctor take steps to prevent the disease or in some cases, find it early. If you’re at high risk for certain diseases, your doctor may recommend genetic testing.
- Getting screened before you have symptoms
Screenings, like colon or breast cancer screenings, can help your doctor detect a disease before you begin having symptoms.
- Tailoring disease prevention
Some people have genes that make it more likely they’ll inherit or be at risk for a condition. By using a precision medicine approach, your doctor can give you a more tailored approach to prevention, which could include increased screenings, medications or surgery.
- Personalizing disease treatment
Precision medicine allows your doctor to provide targeted treatment. If you have a disease, your doctor may treat you with a medicine they know is more effective for people with disease due to genetic changes. Or, your doctor may not prescribe you a certain medication because you have a gene variant that makes you more likely to suffer side effects.
Precision Medicine and Cancer Treatment
Precision medicine is used to provide cancer patients with tailored treatments based on the genetic changes in each patient’s cancer, notes The National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute.
Precision Medicine v. Personalized Medicine
The medical community has been using the terms precision medicine and personalized medicine interchangeably, but there are differences between the two. Personalized medicine is what it sounds like, a physician delivering a treatment plan based on a person’s personal attributes (sex, age, pre-existing conditions, etc.), precision medicine takes the personalized medicine approach much further by adding genetic data.
Combining your genetic data with your lifestyle, clinical and medication history, gives doctors and researchers the ability to identify patterns and genetic changes that could impact the success or failure of your treatment.