Cancer is a disease unlike any other in that treatment can be provided in a number of ways that are entirely dependent on many factors. This could be anything from how the cancer is present in the body, to what areas need to be treated to prevent it spreading.
There are three main types of treatment used in fighting cancer: chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy.
Here is how each treatment is carried out and what it aims to do.
This is the treatment you’ll most often hear about when someone is going through the process of fighting cancer. Chemotherapy literally means the treatment of an area with drugs. The aim is for anti-cancer drugs to effectively kill those cancer causing cells and stop their growth by halting reproduction. Going through chemotherapy isn’t a case of just taking a pill every day though. The drugs used are of a very high strength and anyone taking them will usually find that they’re administered in combination.
Now because they’re a drug, it means they’ll travel all around the body until they reach the necessary area. This means that the drugs can also affect healthy parts of the body and cause temporary damage. The end goal for a chemotherapy treatment is either to eradicate the cancer from the body, shrink a damaged area to make surgery easier, or flush any remaining cancerous cells out after surgery.
This is a very common form of treating cancer and the type of surgery you go through will depend on the type of cancer you have. Surgery is commonly carried out while the patient is under general anesthetic, so you’ll be under and won’t feel any pain during the surgery. During surgery, the cancerous area will be carefully cut around and removed. It’s the hope that when this has been done, the cancer has very little chance of furthering and will be gone. You’ll usually find that having surgery to remove any lumps will also involve you going through a small period of chemotherapy, as mentioned above.
Of course after the surgery you’ll spend a few days on a sequence of pain killing drugs (you have just been cut open after all) and you might be put on a drip that provides fluids, for when you’re unable to eat or drink. The most important thing to remember after going through surgery like this is that rest plays the biggest part in recovery. Letting the body react accordingly and get back to working normally again is only possible if you let it rest.
Getting an X-ray is an great way of finding out exactly where a cancer is located and what direction it is moving in. Radiotherapy is an extension of this. Instead of just identifying the problem, it uses very high energy X-rays aimed at the cancer to destroy the cells.
There are two main reasons someone would receive radiotherapy: to reduce the power of symptoms such as pain by shrinking the size, and curing someone of cancer by removing the cancer completely. In the case of the latter, it’s common for someone to also receive a course of chemotherapy as a means of flushing out the cells completely.
Radiotherapy is also something of a meticulous treatment. Any dose has to be given to an exact area, and anyone about to receive treatment will be positioned in a certain position by a radiographer before anything happens. It’s also quite a short treatment, as long exposure to X-rays could be harmful (its why the machine is isolated in its own room)
Now there are other treatments out there which are more uncommon like HBO (where the body is given more oxygen to combat side effects of treatment), PDT (where lasers are aimed at light-sensitive drugs that have latched on to cancer) and radio-frequency ablation, but these are limited in terms of clinics providing such a service.
If you’d like to know more about different type of cancer treatment, please visit http://www.theloc.com/your-journey/your-treatment/
Scott Hall writes about cancer treatments and the types of help people can get when those closest are affected for theloc.com