“How is cancer treated?” this is probably the first question asked by patients once they recover from the trauma of being diagnosed with cancer. The question is perhaps accompanied with a ray of hope and optimism that the disease is medically curable. Cancer treatment is one of the most researched and discussed topics of medical science today. Technically, doctors may often use a multitude of treatments including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or biological therapy. The selection of treatment depends on the location of cancer, its type and stage of illness, patient’s health and age. It’s indeed a very complicated process and requires a team of professionals. In addition to the medical treatment, it’s important to relieve the pain by support and palliative care.
This is the most probable answer of medical practitioners and oncologists when they are asked, “How is cancer treated?” Oncologists basically use surgery to remove tumors and foster well being in patients. It is used to address localized cancer and can also diagnose the stage of the disease (staging). A biopsy is the most common surgical method for diagnosing cancer. With medical advancements, “keyhole” surgeries often called as laparoscopic or robotic surgeries are becoming popular. These surgeries are less-invasive and have lesser risks and side effects. Surgeries are also helpful in gaining critical insights about the likelihood of recurrence and whether other treatment alternatives will be needed.
Chemotherapy refers to the usage of drugs that destroys cancer cells. These drugs interfere with the cell division process in general and do not target specific cells. The potential drawback of this method is that it may harm healthy tissues. It’s a dreaded side effect but perhaps this is how cancer is treated for many people. For cancers that have spread beyond its root location and is no more localized, this is probably the most common alternative. Chemotherapy is largely used for lymph gland cancer.
It refers to the usage of X-rays or radiations to destroy cancer cells and reduce tumors. This is a more localized and specific way of how cancer is treated. It damages the DNA and protein of cells making them incapable to grow. It eradicates visible tumors on a specific location. It may be delivered internally or externally. This is a painless method and the side effects are usually temporary.
It is commonly used for hormone-sensitive tumors and the treatment affects the whole body. This is most commonly used for breast and prostate cancer which is hormone dependent. Cardinally, the therapy modifies hormone production or their mode of action and is a systematic way of how cancer is treated. This treatment affects the whole body yet has been found worthwhile.
Palliative or supportive care may not be technically considered a part of cancer treatment, however, it is considered to be critical for cancer management. Primarily, it focuses on relieving the painful symptoms of the disease and improving quality of life for patients. It necessitates the symbiotic association of health care experts and the family of the patient. It’s now been researched more and being considered as an important way of how cancer is treated.