After a cancer diagnosis, you and your doctor will discuss the best treatment options for the specific type and severity of the cancer. As technology has advanced over the years, it is important to learn about each option and make an informed decision based on your research and your doctor’s recommendations.
Surgery for cancer has been a treatment option for quite a long time. Surgery can assist doctors in diagnosing cancer (biopsy) and discovering how far it has spread in the body. The technology behind cancer-specific surgery has grown in recent years. Many procedures are far less invasive and more accurate at remove tumors and cancerous tissue than before. In general, most people diagnosed with cancer will receive some type of surgery.
Chemotherapy involves strong drugs to treat cancer. There are more than 100 chemotherapy drugs, and your doctor may choose a certain combination based on the type of cancer you have and the stage. It is common to hear about chemo side effects. These side effects may be different for everyone and every drug. If the side effects severely interfere with your everyday life, your doctor may suggest altering the dosage and chemo scheduling.
- Targeted Therapy: Although this type of therapy can fall under the chemotherapy label, it does not work in exactly the same way as standard chemo drugs. Targeted therapy is often able to attack cancer cells while doing far less damage to normal cells. Targeted therapy continues to be researched today and some clinical trials are available.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancerous cells or tumors in the body. Unlike chemotherapy, radiation therapy just treats the tumor or cancerous cells and not the whole body. In certain situations, radiation therapy is the only treatment necessary. There are three major types of radiation therapy—external-beam radiation therapy, internal radiation therapy, and systemic radiation therapy.
- External-beam radiation therapy: This type of therapy is often delivered in the form of photon beams (x-ray or gamma rays) via a machine called a linear accelerator (LINAC). Some methods of external-beam radiation include intensity-modulated radiation therapy, image-guided radiation therapy, tomotherapy.
- Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy): This type of therapy delivers radiation from radioactive materials placed inside or on the body. Interstitial brachytherapy places a radiation source within the tumor. Intracavitary brachytherapy places a radiation source within a body cavity near the tumor.
- Systemic radiation therapy: This type of therapy allows a patient to swallow or inject a radioactive substance. In some cases, the radioactive substance travels through the blood and can locate and kill tumor cells.
The treatment options listed above are not the only cancer treatments available. There are many new treatments currently being researched and tested.