Billions of dollars and countless hours of research have been poured into fighting the scourge of cancer. But the work has yielded little tangible benefit, according to leading American oncologist, Dr Azra Reza. Treating cancer continues to be expensive, incredibly painful and oftentimes ineffective at keeping a patient alive, she argues.

For the past five decades, doctors have tackled cancer with the same strategy: surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy - or "the terrible, longstanding treatment trio of slash, poison and burn," as Raza refers to them in her latest book, "The First Cell".

The treatment buys many patients a few extra weeks or months of life, but often at the cost of extreme pain and expense. After witnessing her oncologist husband fight cancer and die of it in 2002, Raza now advocates for a completely different approach: Instead of trying to cure cancer, aggressively aim to prevent it. Not only with lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, but with new technologies: machines that scan the body for cancer in the shower; smart bras with biosensors that detect early-stage cells; and micro-chips in infants to monitor abnormal activity.

Critics however say Raza is too pessimistic about the advances made in fighting cancer over the years. Some also question the viability of her proposed solutions and whether they are too far into the future to have any meaningful impact.

Is it time to change the way we fight cancer? Join the conversation.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Azra Raza @the_first_cell 
Oncologist/Cancer Researcher

Reshma Gopaldas @reshingbull 
Vice President of Video, SHE Media

Charles Graeber @charlesgraeber

Read more:
Here’s why we’re losing the war on cancer, according to this doctor - NYPost
Cancer is still beating us – we need a new start - Wall Street Journal
An Oncologist Asks When It’s Time to Say ‘Enough’ – New York Times

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.