Diagnosis: Cancer

Cycle of Hope

Equip Yourself

Cancer Treatment

Treatment Team

Questions to Ask
Healthy Lifestyles


Types of Treatment

Cancer treatment depends on a variety of factors. Because no two cancers are identical and each individual reacts differently to both disease and treatment, every case is unique. Physicians take into account the type of cancer, its stage, its size and location in your body, and your general health, and then develop a plan for you. Because of all the factors involved in cancer diagnosis, there is no one, basic treatment. Often, a treatment plan involves more than one way of killing cancer cells. The three most common treatments are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

The surgical removal of diseased tissue or an organ is often the first step in cancer treatment. If a patient is healthy enough to withstand surgery and has localized cancers that have not spread to other areas of the body, surgery is usually recommended. It is often used with radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Surgery also is performed to relieve pain or to remove a tumor that is the result of the spread of cancer.

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy or irradiation, is used to kill cancer cells within a certain area in the body. It may be used before surgery to reduce the size of a tumor, or during or after surgery to reduce the chance of the disease spreading. Radiation may also be used with chemotherapy or as a way to treat cancer symptoms. The treatment, which uses high-energy x-rays, gamma rays or electrons to destroy the ability of cells to grow and divide, can reach areas that surgery cannot, and causes few side effects.

Chemotherapy uses drugs to cure cancer, decrease pain, keep cancer from spreading or shrink a tumor prior to surgery. Chemotherapy is often combined with other treatment options such as surgery and radiation. Chemotherapy may be given in several ways: orally (pills or liquid), by injection (intravenous or intratumor) or through an internal or external pump.xv Often a combination of drugs is used, either one at a time or together.

Chemotherapy treatments can be given daily, weekly or monthly, depending on the time needed in between treatments for normal cells to rebuild and grow. New chemotherapy has been developed with fewer side effects. In addition, better medications are available to lessen symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue and risk of infection.