Cancer is treated depending on the type and the stage of the cancer. The treatment may involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a mixture of the three. There may also be a clinical trial available for your type of cancer. The goal of treatment is to cure your cancer, keep your cancer from spreading, or to relieve the symptoms caused by cancer.
Surgery is used to diagnose cancer, determine its stage, and to treat cancer. The goal of the surgery is to remove all or most of the tumor and some surrounding tissue. Removing tissue near the tumor area may help stop the tumor from growing back. It also provides the best chance for cure for many kinds of cancer. Surgery may be done before or after chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs (chemicals) to kill cancer cells. Cancer chemotherapy may consist of a single drug or a combination of drugs, and can be administered through a vein, injected into a body cavity, or delivered orally in the form of a pill. Chemotherapy is different from surgery or radiation therapy in that the cancer-fighting drugs circulate in the blood to parts of the body where the cancer may have spread and can kill or eliminate cancers cells at sites great distances from the original cancer. Dosage of chemotherapy is adjusted for the patient's body surface area to ensure that the patient receives the most effective dose tolerable.
Side effects from chemotherapy depend on the type of treatment, and can be prevented or controlled using today's advanced treatment strategies. Most people respond well to chemotherapy, and are able to enjoy a full, productive life.
Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, uses high-energy rays to damage or kill cancer cells by preventing them from growing and dividing. Similar to surgery, radiation therapy is a local treatment used to eliminate or eradicate visible tumors.
Radiation may be used to cure or control cancer, or to ease some of the symptoms caused by cancer. Sometimes radiation is used with other types of cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy and surgery, and sometimes it is used alone.
Hormones help some types of cancer cells to grow, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer. In other cases, hormones can kill cancer cells or slow their growth. Hormone therapy as a cancer treatment may involve taking medications that interfere with the activity of the hormone or stop the production of the hormones. Hormone therapy may involve surgically removing a gland that is producing the hormones.
Your physician may order a hormone receptor test to help determine treatment options and to help learn more about the tumor. This test can help to predict whether the cancer cells are sensitive to hormones.
A targeted therapy is one that is designed to treat only the cancer cells and minimize damage to normal, healthy cells. Cancer treatments that "target" cancer cells may offer the advantage of reduced treatment-related side effects and improved outcomes. Conventional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, cannot distinguish between cancer cells and healthy cells.