Whether it’s you or a loved one, being diagnosed with cancer can beoverwhelming. And even more confusing is deciding on a treatment plan with so many options available. Usually the cancer treatment your doctor recommends depends on the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects, and the patient’s preferences and overall health. Betty Muindi outlines some treatment you can choose from
Surgery can be used to prevent, treat, determine how advanced the cancer is, and diagnose cancer. In relation to cancer treatment, surgery is often done to remove tumours or as much of the cancerous tissue as possible.
Surgery is an ideal treatment for many cancers, especially those that are caught early because it is often the best method of curing the disease.
However, if a tumour has spread, chemotherapy and other systemic therapies are often the best options for getting rid of cancer cells that surgery cannot reach. Sometimes surgery is combined with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
2. Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy works to get rid of cancer cells in the field at which it is directed. It uses certain types of energy to shrink tumours or eliminate cancer cells, by damaging a cancer cell’s DNA, so it is unable to multiply.
Cancer cells are highly sensitive to radiation. Nearby healthy cells may be damaged as well, but are in general more resilient to the effects of radiation than are cancer cells.
Radiation may be given in a number of ways, but can basically be broken down into external radiation, which directs radiation to the tumour from outside the body, or internal radiation or brachytherapy, in which radioactive seeds are implanted in the body.
Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to eliminate cancer cells. Unlike surgery, chemotherapy affects the entire body, not just a specific part. It works by targeting rapidly multiplying cells.
Unfortunately, other types of cells in our bodies also multiply at high rates, like hair follicle cells, cells in our bone marrow, and the cells that line our stomachs. This is why chemo can cause side effects like hair loss and an upset stomach. Chemotherapy is most commonly given by pill or intravenously.
4. Targeted therapies
Targeted therapies are the term used for drugs that target specific characteristics of cancer. Every cancer is different, and has a different molecular profile. By targeting some of the processes tumours use, which allows them to thrive, these treatments are often able to treat a cancer without as many side effects as chemotherapy.
Some of these targeted therapy drugs work to block signals which cause the tumour to grow, whereas others work by cutting off the blood supply to a tumour, causing it to basically starve to death.
Immunotherapy uses the natural power of your immune system to fight illnesses, including cancer. These drugs don’t work for everyone, but when they do, they may result in long-term control of the cancer for some people, even for advanced cancers.
6. Precision medicine
Precision medicine, also known as personalised medicine, helps doctors select treatments that are most likely to help patients based on a genetic understanding of their disease. It is an approach that lets doctors choose a treatment plan for patients that is most likely to suit them as per their disease characteristics.
7. Alternative treatments
When some complementary alternative treatments are used in an integrative way along with conventional methods just discussed, they may help people cope with the symptoms of cancer more easily. Take a moment to learn about some of the integrative cancer treatments such as meditation, massage, acupuncture, and more.
8. Hormone therapy
Hormone therapy is a treatment that slows or stops the growth of breast and prostate cancers that use hormones to grow. Hormone therapy is also called hormone treatment, or endocrine therapy. It may be used to reduce or prevent symptoms in men with prostate cancer who are not able to have surgery or radiation therapy.
9. Ablation therapy
Ablation therapy uses heat or cold to destroy, or ablate, cancer tumours without the need for more invasive surgery. Special probes are used to deliver ablative treatments directly to the tumour. The surgeon relies on computer imaging to guide the probes to the correct position and monitor the progress of the treatment.
Ablative therapy has several advantages. It causes minimal pain and has a shorter recovery time than surgery or radiation therapy. In fact, it usually does not require an overnight hospital stay. It can also be used in conjunction with other cancer treatments.
10. Stem cell transplant
A cellular therapy, stem cell transplant is a procedure that replaces defective or damaged cells in patients whose normal blood cells have been affected by cancer. Stem cell transplants commonly are used to treat leukemia and lymphoma, cancers that affect the blood and lymphatic system.
They also can help patients recover from or better tolerate cancer treatment. In addition, these stem cell transplants are used to treat hereditary blood disorders, such as sickle cell anaemia, and autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.