If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with cancer, you’re sure to want to know what comes next. The article that follows – which gives a brief overview of the most common forms of cancer treatment – is designed as a starting point from which you can initiate your understanding what to expect over the next few weeks, months, years.
Before we begin, here are a few terms that you will find useful going forward:
? Local Treatment: If your cancer has not spread beyond the originally affected area, it is likely that you will undergo local treatment. This only impacts the affected area.
? Systemic Treatment: If the cancer has spread beyond the initially impacted area, it will be necessary to undergo systemic treatment. This means other parts of your body may be affected by the cancer treatment, as well as the cancerous cells.
? Adjuvant Therapy: Following a course of treatment, a second course of medication may be administered to help limit the possibility of relapse. This is known as adjuvant therapy.
? Neoadjuvant Therapy: In some cases, doctors will administer a course of treatment ahead of the main treatment in a bid to make a tumor or other cancerous cells more manageable. This is known as neadjuvant therapy.
Now, the most common forms of cancer treatment:
In any cancer case the first priority is to remove the cancerous cells. In some cases this is not always possible, particularly those of acute cancer where the cancerous cells have widely spread. However, in most cases the possibility to remove these cells remains.
Surgery is often considered the best form of cancer treatment, as the tumor can simply be cut away, thus preventing its negative impact as well as continued growth. Surgery is commonly used as a form of local treatment. If a cancer has spread too far, surgery may not be the answer.
A number of surgical operations exist relating to specific forms of cancer. These include hysterectomies (ovarian cancer), mastectomy (breast cancer), castration (testicular cancer), and colonectomy (colon cancer), amongst many others.
2. Radiation Therapy
As with surgery, radiation therapy is generally used in cases of local cancer treatment. The procedure sees a very precise dosage of radiation administered to the affected area via high-energy x-rays. The radiation passes through the cancerous cells, killing each one and preventing further uninhibited growth.
Radiation therapy may be administered across a number of courses. This is to ensure that all of the cancerous cells are killed off, and that none remain.
In some cases, radiation is used as a neoadjuvant therapy. If a tumor is particularly big, radiation may reduce its size and make it easier for a surgeon to extract.
Radiation can also be used as an adjuvant therapy following surgery, in a bid to prevent cancerous cells returning.
If there’s one form of cancer treatment that most of us have heard of, it’s chemotherapy. Whilst many envisage bald and pale cancer sufferers when they think of the word, not all recognize what it is.
Chemotherapy is a course of treatment that involves administering anti-cancer (antineoplastic) drugs either through injection or tablet. These anti-cancer drugs are designed to attack those cells that are growing abnormally. However, there is a major pitfall with these drugs.
Chemotherapy is a systemic form of cancer treatment which means that the drugs impact not only the cancerous cells but also other parts of the body. This is actually why hair loss is a common side effect. Despite its impact on other parts of the body, chemotherapy can lead to a 100 percent clean bill of health.
Like radiation therapy, chemotherapy can be used on an adjuvant or neoadjuvant basis.
4. Targeted Therapies
Targeted therapies – which are a relatively new method of cancer treatment – are similar to chemotherapy in that certain medicines are administered to fight growths. However, unlike chemotherapy drugs, these medicines are designed to target specific cells, and not only those that are dividing or growing irregularly.
Targeted therapies currently exist for the likes of breast cancer and prostate cancer. Extensive work is being carried out to develop further successful targeted therapies.
5. Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone therapy is another more recent form of cancer treatment. It works in two ways. Firstly, specific hormones are introduced to the body to either slow or altogether stop the growth of cancerous cells. As cancers can impact natural hormone secretion, it may be necessary to give the body a helping hand.
Secondly, hormone replacement therapy may be used following other forms of cancer treatment to ensure that the body has enough of a specific hormone. For example, if both testicles are removed as a result of testicular cancer, the body will no longer be able to produce testosterone. In this case, additional testosterone will be added artificially to the body.
As we have stated before, this is only designed to offer you a starting point on your journey to becoming cancer free. Be sure to talk to your doctor, oncologist, or other healthcare professional to find out the information relating to your specific case.