Cancer treatments depend on the type of cancer and how advanced it is. Some cancer patients have only one treatment, whereas most of them have a combination of treatments, such as surgery plus chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. You can have much information about the treatment modalities of your cancer and get totally confused. However, when you talk with an experienced doctor, you can feel more confident.
Surgery is the surgical removal of a solid tumor in one area in the body by the surgeon. It often cannot treat cancer that has spread or cancer in the blood, such as leukemia. Surgery may be performed as open surgery or laparoscopic surgery, which is a minimally invasive surgery, depending on the type, localization, and spreading of the cancer.
Radiation therapy kills or damages cancer cells and shrinks tumors using high dose radiation in a specific area instead of applying throughout the whole body. The most common type is external beam radiation which is directed by a machine. Another type of radiation therapy is internal radiation, also known as brachytherapy, which is a radioactive implant placed inside the body where the tumor is. The patients under brachytherapy are isolated from other people because they emit radiation to the environment. Radiation therapy can be performed neoadjuvant (prior to surgery) and/or adjuvant (after surgery) in addition to surgery as it is applied alone for curing or palliative (in advanced cancer disease).
Chemotherapy is a type of strong medical therapy with drugs (over 100 types of chemo drugs in forms of tablets, capsules, creams, and injections) to prevent cancer from spreading, or to slow it down, or to kill cancer cells. It can cause some side effects in the blood, the mouth, the digestive system, and the hair follicles.
Immunotherapy, also known as biological therapy or biotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps the immune system to fight cancer. It either boosts the immune system or marks cancer cells so that the immune system can find and kill them.
Targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment targeting the changes in cancer cells. Contrary to chemotherapy which is killing all fast-growing cells, targeted therapy which is strong medicine aiming to kill only cancer cells without affecting other normal cells, aims to stop the proliferation of blood vessels around cancer cells or turn off the growth signals in the cancer cells.
Hormone therapy, also known as endocrine therapy, is a type of cancer therapy that slows or stops the growth of breast and prostate cancers. Drugs used for hormonotherapy in the cancer cells stop the production of the hormones which promote the growth of the tumor or inhibit their normal functions. Sometimes, it is used for shrinking of the tumor before the surgery.
Stem cell transplant is a procedure restoring the stem cells, which are destroyed by very high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy, in cancer patients. Stem cells are cells that haven’t matured into their final form and found in the blood and the bone marrow. Stem cells are transplanted through a catheter to replace cells that are damaged or killed with high dose treatments in patient’s bone marrow. Stem cells may find and kill cancer cells.
Precision medicine, also known as personalized medicine, is a personalized cancer treatment based on patients’ genetic makeup and genetic understanding of their disease to find out the best treatment for them.