The goal of cancer treatment is to cure the disease, reduce its size, or stop its progression. Surgery is the most common primary treatment for the most common types of cancer, but chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy can also be used. Adjuvant therapies such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy are used to supplement primary treatments. Palliative treatments can help relieve side effects of treatment or symptoms caused by the cancer itself.
Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy may be used to relieve symptoms. Other medicines can relieve symptoms such as pain and shortness of breath. A bone marrow transplant allows the doctor to use higher doses of chemotherapy to treat cancer. It can also be used to replace diseased bone marrow.
Some people with cancer will only receive one treatment, but most people undergo a combination of treatments. When you need treatment for cancer, it's normal to feel overwhelmed and confused. However, talking to your doctor and learning about the types of treatment you can receive can help you feel more in control. Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells.
It can cause side effects and is often used in combination with other treatments. Hormone therapy is a treatment that slows or stops the growth of breast and prostate cancers that use hormones to grow. Hyperthermia is a type of treatment in which body tissue is heated up to 113°F to help damage and kill cancer cells with little or no damage to normal tissue. Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps the immune system fight cancer.
Photodynamic therapy uses a light-activated drug to kill cancer and other abnormal cells. Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and reduce the size of tumors. Stem cell transplants are procedures that restore stem cells that turn into blood cells in people who have had high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy destroyed. Surgery is an option for most cancers, except blood cancers, with cancer surgeons trying to remove all or most of the tumor. It is an especially effective treatment for early-stage cancers that have not spread to other parts of the body.
Surgery can also play a role in treating cancer even when the tumor has spread beyond its original site. Immunotherapy, a relatively new type of cancer treatment, uses medications to speed up a patient's own immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapy treatments can work on different types of cancer and can be effective in treating even the most advanced and difficult-to-treat cancers. Several effective drugs approved by the FDA are now frequently used to treat certain types of cancer, offering some patients with advanced-stage cancer a treatment option they didn't have before. For example, immunotherapy has redefined the way doctors treat melanoma, the most dangerous and deadly form of skin cancer. Targeted therapies, also known as precision medicine, are used to tailor medications to each individual patient and cancer.
A tumor or blood sample is tested to identify a genetic profile which allows doctors to administer medications that target the genes that cause cancer. If you have cancer, your doctor will recommend one or more ways to treat the disease. The most common treatments are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, laser therapy, hormonal therapy, active surveillance (watchful waiting), and others. Chemotherapy is one of the most common types of cancer treatment. Active surveillance involves monitoring patients with low-risk cancers for signs of progression without immediately starting treatment. Cancer cells cannot be detected with current tests but they are thought to be responsible for recurrence because they can grow over time. You can learn more about medications used to treat metastatic breast cancer in the Guide to Metastatic Breast Cancer.
For example, patients with breast cancer are often tested for HER2 gene which may play a role in the growth of breast cancer cells. Rush Cancer experts talk about different treatments for cancer and how they work including surgery and immunotherapy.