What are the various cancer treatment options?
What is the first word that comes to your mind when you hear the word cancer? Well, chances are, it’s Chemotherapy. But, it is probably not the only course of treatment in case of cancer. With the advent of medical science, nowadays, cancer diagnosis needs to be just limited to Chemo, hair loss, vomiting, or nausea. The treatment plan is now mostly tailor-made to the patient’s cancer stage and location and sometimes chemo may even take a backseat owing to its side effects.
Well, we know what would be your next question, if not Chemotherapy, then what’s the best treatment plan? Not a lot of people are aware of the different types of treatment plans. If you are also on the same boat, like us, you are in for a ride here. In this article, we will talk about the common cancer treatments along with the side effects of the disease.
But, before we take a deep dive into the goals of cancer treatment.
What are the goals of cancer treatment?
The right cancer treatment plan can help save the day for a cancer patient. The most important goal in cancer treatment is to either cure cancer, or at least keep cancer under control so that the patient can live a normal life for a long period of time. However, controlling or shrinking cancer might not be a possibility if cancer has already advanced. In such situations, the treatment plans aim to slow the growth of cancer or shrink the cancer tumor to allow the patients to live symptom-free.
Here’s a brief on the goals of cancer treatment:
- Primary treatment: Here the ultimate goal of the treatment is to completely cure the cancer. It either means to remove cancer from the patient’s body or kill the proactive cancer cells with treatment. In situations, where the cancer is still located in one particular area of the body, the most common primary treatment used is surgery.
- Adjuvant treatment (or post primary treatment): The goal of adjuvant therapy aims to kill the remaining cancer cells or any cancer cells after the primary treatment in order to prevent cancer recurrence. As there is no guarantee if the primary treatment will be able to uproot all the cancer cells from the body. Some of the common adjuvant therapies include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy.
- Palliative treatment – This treatment is ensured for cancer that are at an advanced stage and are used to relieve side effects or control cancer growth. Treatments like radiation, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy can all be used to provide relief. Sometimes, medications can also be used to relieve symptoms like shortness of breath and pain. Unlike the other treatments, this can be used parallelly along with the above two treatments.
Now that we know the aim of the treatments, let’s take a look at the different types of cancer treatments.
What are the different cancer treatments?
Simply put, cancer treatments can vary, and no two treatment plans will be the same for every patient. Typically, the treatment of cancer depends on many factors such as type of cancer, stage of cancer, etc. Depending on these factors, you can receive either single form or a combination of treatments like radiation, surgery, medications and other therapies to keep cancer under control, cure it, or just stop the progression of cancer to the whole body. But, your oncologist is the best person to decide on the right treatment plan. Here’s a list of cancer treatment options include:
- Surgery: The goal of this treatment is to completely remove cancer or at least as much as possible. With surgery, a surgeon removes cancer from the patient’s body. This treatment is effective for cancers that are localized to one part of your body or in the form of a tumor. However, a patient who is undergoing a surgery must take care of certain aspects even before and after the surgery.
- Chemotherapy: This is the most common treatment known to people that can outrightly cure cancer. However, this is not always an effective treatment. In the case of Chemotherapy, the treatment uses drugs to kill cancer cells by destroying their rapid growth or the proactive reproduction of cancer cells. However, chemotherapy has some side-effects like hair loss, nausea, etc. and patients need to take care of their health even after the treatment is over.
- Radiation therapy: This treatment uses high-powered energy beams, like protons or X-rays to destroy cancer cells. The radiation treatment can come from a machine outside your body that is also known as external beam radiation, or it can be placed inside your body known as brachytherapy.
- Hormone therapy: Some types of cancer like breast cancer and prostate cancer are fueled by your body’s hormones, so removing these hormones from your body or blocking these hormone effects can help in killing the cancer cells.
- Bone marrow transplant: A bone marrow transplant or a stem cell transplant allows the doctor to use a higher amount of doses of chemotherapy to destroy the cancer cells. This treatment can also come handy in replacing the otherwise deceased bone marrow.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer as this will act as an added attack on the Cancer cells which will help them to attack it better.
- Cryoablation: This treatment aims to kill cancer cells with a cold where a thin needle, also known as cryoprobe is inserted directly into the cancerous tumor, through your skin. Next, gas is pumped into the cryoprobe to freeze the cancer tissue and after that, it is allowed to thaw. And this treatment is repeated a couple of times to be able to destroy the cancer cells.
- Radiofrequency ablation: This treatment uses high-frequency electrical energy to kill the cancer cells. While performing this treatment, the doctor guides a very thin needle either through the skin of the patient or through an incision into the cancer tissue to cause the surrounding healthy tissue to heat up that eventually kills the nearby cancer cells.
The listed cancer treatments are few of the most common ones. However, the list doesn’t end here. There are a few other treatments like targeted drug therapy, clinical trials, alternative medicines, etc. that are also part of the cancer treatment and can help you in fighting the disease.
Side effects of Cancer Treatment
Cancer treatments also have several side effects as the side effect occurs when treatment damages healthy cells. However, the side effects of these treatments are different for every person, and also differs for different medicines and treatment. Tiredness, energy loss is one of the most common side effects right after cancer treatment. Some may experience neutropenia, where some patients may experience extensive hair loss. Even nausea and vomiting along with some cancer pains are some very common side effects too. Although there are side effects that you can figure out right after the treatment, some side effects can come back even after years have passed. However, if you face a lot of pain or endure side effects, don’t forget to get help from your medical team, so that you can stay strong during and even after treatment.
To Sum Up,
Cancer can be emotionally and physically tiring. It would not only demand a huge sacrifice but also a lot of physical and emotional strength. Plus, the treatments can also have side effects. So, you need to take care of yourself all the while along with having a positive outlook towards life.
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