Common cancer treatments

Common cancer treatments

Common cancer treatments  

Treatment is symptomatic and dependent on how advanced the cancer is and what type it is. There are many types of treatment, but these are the common treatments for cancer types: 

Surgery  

Cancer surgery

Surgery is used when cancer can be removed from the body and occurs in the form of a solid tumour contained in one area. The patient will be anaesthetised so as to not feel anything during surgery and the surgeon will normally use a scalpel or a sharp knife to remove the tumour. Surgeons try not to cut the tumour itself, but instead, will cut around it in order to carefully remove it. Cutting the actual tumour may result in seeding, this is where tumour pieces spill into the body and cause the cancer to spread. This may involve cutting through skin, muscle and in some cases, bone.  

This can be a painful procedure to recover from and is dependent on the size and depth of the cut and cancerous tumour removed.  

Other types of surgery have different surgical procedures that do not involve incisions through the use of a scalpel, these include the use of lasers and even liquid nitrogen. Some types of surgery are minimally invasive, where only a few small cuts need to be made.  

Radiation therapy  

This can also be called radiotherapy, is a form of cancer treatment that entails using high doses of radiation in an attempt to kill the cancer cells and shrink the tumours. Radiation therapy is known to cure or ease cancer symptoms.  

Radiation does not kill the cancer cells immediately, it may take weeks of treatment for the cancer cells to start to die and continue to do so months after the radiation therapy has ended. It is used to treat a variety of types of cancer, however, it is often paired with other treatments, these being surgery and chemotherapy.  

It can be used before surgery to shrink the cancer, during surgery to directly impact the cancer without passing through the skin and even after surgery to kill off any remaining cancer cells. 

With advances in medicine, a new form of radiosurgery has been developed. Gamma Knife Radiosurgery, despite the name, it is in fact not a surgery at all and does not involve an actual knife. It is a very precise and accurate form of therapeutic radiology.  It uses beams of gamma rays that are precisely targeted to treat small to medium sized lesions or tumours that are normally found in the brain. It gives an intense dose of radiation without having to make a surgical incision. It is a one-session radiation treatment and the effects occur slowly over a long period of time. It is not for those who need immediate results or therapy. It is used for more than just treating cancer, and is also used as a treatment for neurological conditions like trigeminal neuralgia.  

Chemotherapy 

Woman receiving chemotherapy

This is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill the cancer cells. It works by stopping and/or slowing the growth of cancer cells by preventing them from continuing to grow and progressively divide. It has been known to cure cancer or shrink tumours and lessen their side effects.  

It is used to treat a variety of cancer types and can be used alone or with other treatments to help them to be more effective.  

In killing fast-growing cancer cells it also kills healthy cells that grow and divide quickly such as your cells lining your intestines and mouth and the cells that cause your hair to grow. You may also experience nausea, hair loss and a sore mouth, amongst other side effects.   

Immunotherapy 

This type of cancer treatment helps your immune system to fight cancer, it is a biological therapy which uses substances made from living organisms. It is not as widely used as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery, but immunotherapies have been approved to treat people with many different types of cancer.  

There are a variety of types of immunotherapy, one such being monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) therapy. This set of drugs are used to trigger an immune system response to cancer cells and can even mark the cancer cells in order for them to be found and destroyed. This type of immunotherapy can also be referred to as targeted therapy.    

Hormone therapy 

This type of therapy is used to slow down and stop the cells of cancer that use hormones to grow. It is also known as hormone treatment, hormonal therapy and endocrine therapy. The types of this therapy fall into two broad groups – those that are able to stop the body’s ability to produce hormones and those that interfere with the way that hormones behave in our bodies.  

It is used to treat those suffering from breast and prostate cancer as these types of cancer use hormones to grow, it can also be used alongside other cancer treatments.  

Stem cell transplants 

Stem cells are cells that have the ability to give rise to a variety of different cells in the body. They can develop into specialised cells and are known as the foundation cells for every organ and tissue in the body. They are basically where all the other cells ‘stem’ from.  

Stem cell transplants are procedures that are able to restore the blood-forming stem cells in cancer patients who have had theirs destroyed due to a high dose of chemotherapy or radiation.  

Blood forming cells are vital for the body as they grow into different types of blood cells, namely, white blood cells which help your body to fight infection, red blood cells which carry oxygen through the body and platelets which help the blood to clot. 

They do not normally work directly against cancer but instead help your body to recover from high doses of treatments. Most people who receive this type of treatment have lymphoma or leukaemia.  

Precision medicine  

Precision medicine, also known as personalised medicine, is used to treat patients who have the same genetic change in their cancer cells, grouping them together for the same medication purely dependent on their cell mutation type and not the cancer type.  

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