Cancer Treatment Options: Latest Results
Making decisions about cancer treatment is the first step after a cancer diagnosis. The patient and their families must decide on the best treatment method depending on the given options. Take time to research, discuss with family members, and understand your treatment options and their side effects to feel comfortable with your choice.
Depending on the type of cancer that you have and the stage, your doctor will recommend various ways to treat the disease. Please read this blog to learn about various cancer treatment methods and their goals to help you choose the best treatment option.
Types of cancer treatment
Various cancer treatments depend on the type of cancer and how it has advanced. Some people will only have one kind of treatment, while others may be given a combination. It’s normal to feel confused and overwhelmed when diagnosed with cancer. But talking to your doctor may help you feel better. Below are the pillars of cancer treatment;
Chemotherapy is a standard cancer treatment that uses medicine to kill cancer cells. It aims to treat cancer, stop the cells from spreading, prevent the cells from returning, delay its growth, and shrink giant tumours to relieve pain and other symptoms. Chemotherapy may be used alone to treat cancer or combined with others.
Chemotherapy drugs destroy cancer cells but can also damage healthy cells in the process, leading to side effects such as hair loss, mouth sores, fatigue, stomach problems, etc.
Cancer surgery treats cancer by removing it. It involves cutting the patient’s body with a large or tiny incision, depending on where the tumour is located, to remove it. Other surgery methods can be used, such as cryosurgery, which uses cold temperatures to destroy cancer cells. It involves the total or partial removal of a tumour.
Surgery is only used for cancers located in a particular area, unlike chemotherapy which treats cancer in the entire body. It’s used together with other options to treat cancer.
- Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy uses high-dose energy rays such as particles, x-ray, or radioactive seeds to damage cancer cells. It may be used independently or with other methods to treat cancer. Radiation therapy can also shrink large tumours and reduce advanced cancer symptoms. There are three ways in which radiation therapy can be delivered;
- External beam radiation, which uses a machine to send radiation to the tumour
- Internal radiation involves placing a radiation source inside or near the cancer cell in the patient’s body.
- Systemic radiation therapy delivers radioactive drugs through injection or orally.
Immunotherapy depends on the body’s immune system to fight infection. It boosts the immune system to work harder in a more targeted way to fight cancer cells. Immunotherapy drugs are given by IV and attack specific parts of cancer cells.
The goal of immunotherapy is to;
- Stop or slow the growth of cancer cells
- Prevent the spreading of cancer to other body parts
- Boost the immune system to get rid of cancer cells
- Photodynamic therapy
For photodynamic therapy, a patient is administered a drug-sensitive to light. The drug lasts longer on the cancer cell than on the healthy cell. The light is directed to the cancer cell from a laser or other source, which changes the drug to a substance that damages the cancer cells.
Hyperthermia involves using heat to kill and damage cancer cells without affecting normal cells. The heat is passed by a machine, a probe, or a needle placed in the tumour. Hyperthermia can be used in some body parts or a cell.
- Hormone therapy
Hormonal therapy is used to treat cancers that are caused by hormones, such as ovarian, breast, and prostate cancers. It blocks the body’s hormones using drugs or surgery, which slows down the growth of cancer cells. Surgery includes removing organs that produce hormones, i.e., testes or ovaries. Drugs may be given as pills or by injection.
- Targeted therapy
Targeted therapy stops cancer from spreading and growing using drugs. It stimulates the immune system, prevents cancer cells from growing, or overcomes side effects due to treatment. Unlike other treatments, targeted therapy causes less harm to normal cells.
Target drugs may kill cancer cells, make them die on their own, or stop them from growing and spreading. Types of targeted treatment are as follows;
- Cancer growth inhibitors
- Monoclonal antibodies
- Angiogenesis inhibitors
- Bone marrow transplant or stem cells transplant
A bone marrow transplant, also known as a stem cell transplant, replaces bone marrow or stem cells destroyed by a high dose of radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Its commonly used to treat lymph nodes and blood cancers.
There are two types of stem cell transplants;
- High-dose treatment using stem cell support includes storing your stem cells and returning them after treatment, allowing you to receive a high dose of chemotherapy.
- Allogenic(donor) stem cell transplants which replace the affected bone marrow with new bone marrow.
Cryotherapy uses a freezing gas to kill and freeze cancer cells. It can treat pre-cancerous cells, for example, on the skin or cervix. Cryotherapy can also be delivered using special instruments to the body tumours such as the prostrate or liver.
- Laser therapy
Laser therapy destroys cancer cells using a very narrow and focused light beam. It’s done using a thin, spare tube inside the body that focuses the light on the cancer cell. Lasers are used with other cancer treatments and can also be used on the skin.
Laser therapy can be used to;
- Treat symptoms of cancer, such as bleeding
- Damage tumour and cancer growth
- Shrink tumours that might be blocking the colon, stomach, or oesophagus
- Reduce pain after surgery by sealing nerve ending and lymph vessel
Goals of cancer treatment
The goal of cancer treatment is to cure cancer so you can live an everyday life, which sometimes is impossible, depending on your situation. If a cure is not possible, treatment may aim to shrink or slow the growth of your cancer to remove symptoms for a more extended period.
Treatment for cancer may be used as follows;
- Primary treatment
Primary treatment aims to remove or kill all the cancer cells from the body. The most common immediate treatment is surgery. If your cancer is sensitive to chemotherapy or radiation therapy, you may be given one as a primary treatment.
- Adjuvant treatment
Adjuvant treatment aims to reduce the chances of cancer recurring by damaging any cancer cells that might remain after primary treatment. Any cancer treatment can be used as adjuvant therapy. Common adjuvant treatments are radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy.
Neoadjuvant treatment is used before primary treatment to make the process easier or more effective.
- Palliative treatment
Palliative treatment helps relieve the side effects of treatment or signs and symptoms caused by cancer. Hormone therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can alleviate signs and symptoms, while other treatments can also reduce symptoms such as pain and shortness of breath. Palliative treatment is used together with other medicines to cure your cancer.
Future trends in cancer treatment
Four new approaches can help cure cancer in the future: cell therapy, personalized vaccines, microbiome treatment, and gene editing.
- Cells therapy
CAR-T cell therapy is a new cancer treatment technology that involves taking immune T-cells and genetically engineering them to aim at a specific cancer antigen. A new, improved generation of CAR-T treatment is being developed to target a wide range of cancers since its only available for treating certain rare forms of cancer.
- Personalized cancer vaccines
Cancer is caused by genetic mutations that change healthy cells to tumour cells. These genetic mutations are the centre for new therapies for cancer which may vary depending on the tumour. Personalized vaccines could be helpful for cancers with many modifications, such as bowel and lung cancers.
Other technologies, such as CAR-T therapy, can be used for cancers with lower mutation, such as prostrate or ovarian cancer.
- Microbiome treatment
Microbiome treatment is a new way of treating cancer using cancer vaccines. The human microbiome (a collection of microorganisms found in our bodies) plays an essential role in health. A cancer vaccine has been created based on tumour-mimicking molecules that produce a robust immune response against the tumour, making it visible to other forms of cancer therapy.
- Gene editing
Cancer technology such as CRISPR/Cas9 has made gene editing simpler and faster by modifying DNA sequences with high precision. This technology is used in cancer treatment by removing a gene from immune T-cell that tumour cells can use to attack the immune system. CRISPR technology can also be used to improve cancer therapies such as CAR-T.
Cancer treatment involves using radiation, surgery, medication, and other therapies to cure, shrink, or stop the progress of cancer cells. You can have many treatment options with high survival rates when detected early. Depending on your situation, you may be given one or a combination of treatments.
Talk to a doctor to understand the risk and benefits of each treatment to determine the best treatment for you.
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