The type of treatment that’s best for your cancer will vary tremendously depending on factors such as the type, stage and location of the cancer, as well as your overall health. Summit Cancer Care physicians will base their treatment recommendations on years of experience and research, as well as the latest information from ongoing clinical trials. Many new treatments, including cancer vaccines and gene therapy, are being studied in clinical trials.
The important thing to remember is that there is no standard formula for treating cancer. What may work for cancer of one type and stage will not be as effective for cancer of a different type or stage.
Types of Cancer Treatment
In general, there are three major types of cancer treatment: surgery and radiation therapy, chemotherapy. These therapies can be used either alone or in combination with each other.
Surgery is the oldest form of cancer treatment and is used either by itself or in combination with other therapies.
Radiation uses large doses of high-energy beams or particles to destroy cancer cells in a specifically targeted area. Surgery and radiation are most often used for Stage I and II tumors, since these tumors have not yet spread from where they started. Factors used to determine if these types of treatment are appropriate include the patient’s ability to tolerate surgery and the type of cancer. The goal of these treatments is curing the cancer. are treated with surgery or radiation with the goal being cure. Again, treatment may vary depending on the type of cancer.
Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells, control their growth, or relieve pain symptoms. It may be recommended after surgery, if the cancer is discovered to have spread to the lymph nodes. This often means that there is a high chance the cancer may have also spread further, even though CAT scans or x-rays can’t detect it. In this case, chemotherapy may be used in combination with other treatments such radiation therapy to make sure all cancer cells have been eliminated before they grow and cause a problem. This type of treatment is referred to as “adjuvant” treatment.
New Treatments for Cancer
These are exciting times for new treatments for cancer. Many new medicines are effective with much fewer side effects. For example:
Hormone manipulation with medicines such as Tamoxifen, Arimedex, or Letrosole for breast cancer in women or Lupron and Casodex for prostate cancer in men provides the ability to control cancer for years with little in the way of side effects.
Antibodies, which are proteins your body naturally makes to fight infections, have been developed to attack cancer cells. These too have very few side effects. Examples of antibodies include Herceptin and Ritxan.
New medicines like Gleevec and Iressa have been developed to target certain aspects how cancer cells lose control of their growth. They too have very few side effects and may represent a new wave of medicines that effectively fight cancer.
All of these advances and the ability to give cancer treatment either in the office or at home have greatly improved the overall experience for someone battling cancer. We hope that these trends will continue as we strive for a cure.