Treatments for Cancer
Treatments for Cancer:
The general goal of treatment of cancer is to bring about a complete remission of the disease, in which there is no longer any sign of the cancer in the body. The prognosis for people with cancer varies greatly depending on the specific type of cancer, location and stage of advancement of the cancer, age of the patient, general health status, and other factors.
Treatment plans for cancer are individualized for each individual's specific case. Treatment varies depending on the type of cancer, the size of the tumor, its location, the stage of advancement, a patient's age and medical history, the presence of other sites of cancer in the body, and other factors.
Treatment for cancer is best planned and delivered by a team of specialists in cancer care. These specialists generally include medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists, and registered nurses who specialize in cancer care.
Treatment of cancer may include surgery to remove all or part of the cancerous tumor. The amount of tumor removed varies depending on its size and location and other factors. In some cases, it may not be possible to remove any or any portion of a tumor because the cancer is too advanced and/or because surgical removal may affect healthy tissue and cause permanent damage or even death.
Treatment of cancer may also require radiation therapy. Radiation therapy can help to shrink a tumor and help ensure that any cancer cells that remain after surgery have been killed. Radiation therapy may also be used for people who cannot have their tumors removed. Chemotherapy is another common therapy for cancer. Chemotherapy uses antineoplastic drugs to kill cancer cells.
It may also be recommended that a person with cancer enroll in a clinical trial that is testing promising new therapies and treatments for cancer. Ensuring good nutrition and pain control and minimizing disability are also key elements of a multifaceted cancer treatment program.
Regular follow-up care is also a very important after treatment to help monitor a patient's treatment and progress and to address any problems or complications promptly.
For some people whose cancer has progressed to a very advanced stage, the goals of treatment may change. Treatment may shift away from curing the disease and focus on measures to keep a person comfortable and maximize the quality of life. This treatment is often administered through a hospice program.
Treatment List for Cancer
The list of treatments mentioned in various sources
includes the following list.
Always seek professional medical advice about any treatment
or change in treatment plans.
Alternative Treatments for Cancer
Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed as possibly helpful for Cancer may include:
Cancer: Marketplace Products, Discounts & Offers
Products, offers and promotion categories available for Cancer:
Cancer: Research Doctors & Specialists
Research all specialists including ratings, affiliations, and sanctions.
Drugs and Medications used to treat Cancer:
Note:You must always seek professional medical advice about any prescription drug, OTC drug, medication, treatment
or change in treatment plans.
Some of the different medications used in the treatment of Cancer include:
- Methotrexate - used as part of combination therapy for various cancers
- Abitrexate - used as part of combination therapy for various cancers
- Folex - used as part of combination therapy for various cancers
- Folex PFS - used as part of combination therapy for various cancers
- Mexate - used as part of combination therapy for various cancers
- Mexate AQ - used as part of combination therapy for various cancers
- Rheumatrex Dose Pack - used as part of combination therapy for various cancers
- Trexall - used as part of combination therapy for various cancers
Hospital statistics for Cancer:
These medical statistics relate to hospitals, hospitalization and Cancer:
- 133,482 admissions to private hospitals for procedures on chemotherapy and radiation oncology in Australia 2001-02 (AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database, Australiaís Health 2004, AIHW)
- 135,535 admissions to public hospitals for procedures on chemotherapy and radiation Oncology in Australia 2001-02 (AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database, Australiaís Health 2004, AIHW)
- 210,738 patient days spent in private hospitals were for chemotherapy and radiation oncology in Australia 2001-02 (AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database, Australiaís Health 2004, AIHW)
- 354,832 patient days spent in public hospitals for procedures in chemotherapy and radiation oncology in Australia 2001-02 (AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database, Australiaís Health 2004, AIHW)
- 81.7% of hospitalisations for procedures on chemotherapy and radiation Oncology were single day in public hospitals in Australia 2001-02 (AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database, Australiaís Health 2004, AIHW)
- more hospital information...»
Hospitals & Medical Clinics: Cancer
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on hospital and medical facility performance and surgical care quality:
Medical news summaries about treatments for Cancer:
The following medical news items
are relevant to treatment of Cancer:
Discussion of treatments for Cancer:
Cancer: NWHIC (Excerpt)
Cancer is treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy,
hormone therapy, or biological therapy. The doctor may use one method or a
combination of methods. The choice of treatment depends on the type and
location of the cancer, whether the disease has spread, the patientís age
and general health, and other factors. Many cancer patients take part in
clinical trials (research studies) testing new treatment methods. Such
studies are designed to improve cancer treatment. (Source: excerpt from Cancer: NWHIC)
Cancer Facts for People Over 50 -- Age Page -- Health Information: NIA (Excerpt)
There are a number of cancer treatments, including surgery,
radiation therapy, chemo-therapy (anticancer drugs), and biological
therapy (treatment that uses the body's natural ability to fight
infection and disease). Patients with cancer often are treated by a
team of specialists, which may include a medical oncologist
(specialist in cancer treatment), a surgeon, a radiation oncologist
(specialist in radiation therapy), and others. The doctors may
decide to use one type of treatment alone or a combination of
treatments. The choice of treatment depends on the type and location
of the cancer, the stage of the disease, the patient's general
health, and other factors. (Source: excerpt from Cancer Facts for People Over 50 -- Age Page -- Health Information: NIA)
What You Need To Know About Cancer -- An Overview: NCI (Excerpt)
Many people with cancer want to take an active part in
decisions about their medical care. They want to learn all
they can about their disease and their treatment choices.
However, the shock and stress that people often feel after a
diagnosis of cancer can make it hard for them to think of
everything they want to ask the doctor. Often it is helpful to
prepare a list of questions in advance. To help remember what
the doctor says, patients may take notes or ask whether they
may use a tape recorder. Some people also want to have a
family member or friend with them when they talk to the doctor
-- to take part in the discussion, to take notes, or just to
These are some questions a patient may want to ask
the doctor before treatment begins:
What is my diagnosis?
Is there any evidence the cancer has spread? What
is the stage of the disease?
What are my treatment choices? Which do you
recommend for me? Why?
What new treatments are being studied? Would a
clinical trial be appropriate for me?
What are the expected benefits of each kind of
What are the risks and possible side
effects of each treatment?
a side effect of cancer treatment? Can anything be
done about it?
What can I do to prepare for treatment?
How often will I have treatments?
How long will treatment last?
Will I have to change my normal activities? If so,
for how long?
What is the treatment likely to
Patients do not need to ask all their questions or remember
all the answers at one time. They will have many chances to
ask the doctor to explain things and to get more
Methods of Treatment and Their Side Effects
Treatment for cancer can be either local
or systemic .
Local treatments affect cancer cells in the tumor and the area
near it. Systemic treatments travel through the bloodstream,
reaching cancer cells all over the body. Surgery and radiation
therapy are types of local treatment. Chemotherapy, hormone
therapy, and biological therapy are examples of systemic
It is hard to protect healthy cells from the harmful
effects of cancer treatment. Because treatment does damage
healthy cells and tissues, it often causes side effects. The
side effects of cancer treatment depend mainly on the type and
extent of the treatment. Also, the effects may not be the same
for each person, and they may change for a person from one
treatment to the next. A patient's reaction to treatment is
closely monitored by physical exams, blood tests, and other
tests. Doctors and nurses can explain the possible side
effects of treatment, and they can suggest ways to reduce or
eliminate problems that may occur during and after
Surgery is therapy to remove the cancer; the surgeon
may also remove some of the surrounding tissue and lymph nodes
near the tumor. Sometimes surgery is done on an outpatient
basis, or the patient may have to stay in the hospital. This
decision depends mainly on the type of surgery and the type of
The side effects of surgery depend on many factors,
including the size and location of the tumor, the type of
operation, and the patient's general health. Although patients
are often uncomfortable during the first few days after
surgery, this pain can be controlled with medicine. Patients
should feel free to discuss ways of relieving pain with the
doctor or nurse. (More information about pain control is in
Control " section.) It is also common for patients to feel
tired or weak for a while after surgery. The length of time it
takes to recover from an operation varies among patients.
Some patients have concerns that cancer will spread during
surgery. This subject is discussed in the section on "Biopsy ."
Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses
high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. For some types of
cancer, radiation therapy may be used instead of surgery as
the primary treatment. Radiation therapy also may be given
before surgery (neoadjuvant
therapy ) to shrink a tumor so that it is easier to
remove. In other cases, radiation therapy is given after
therapy ) to destroy any cancer cells that may remain
in the area. Radiation also may be used alone, or along with
other types of treatment, to relieve pain or other problems if
the tumor cannot be removed.
Radiation therapy can be in either of two forms: external
or internal .
Some patients receive both.
External radiation comes from a machine that aims the rays
at a specific area of the body. Most often, this treatment is
given on an outpatient basis in a hospital or clinic. There is
no radioactivity left in the body after the treatment.
With internal radiation (also called implant radiation,
interstitial radiation, or brachytherapy ),
the radiation comes from radioactive material that is sealed
in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters and placed directly in
or near the tumor. Patients may stay in the hospital while the
level of radiation is highest. They may not be able to have
visitors during the hospital stay or may have visitors for
only a short time. The implant may be permanent or temporary.
The amount of radiation in a permanent implant goes down to a
safe level before the person leaves the hospital. The doctor
will advise the patient if any special precautions should be
taken at home. With a temporary implant, there is no
radioactivity left in the body after the implant is removed.
The side effects of radiation therapy depend on the
treatment dose and the part of the body that is treated.
Patients are likely to become extremely tired during radiation
therapy, especially in the later weeks of treatment. Extra
rest is often necessary, but doctors usually encourage
patients to try to stay as active as they can between rest
With external radiation, there may be permanent darkening
or "bronzing" of the skin in the treated area. In addition, it
is common to have temporary hair loss in the treated area and
for the skin to become red, dry, tender, and itchy. Radiation
therapy also may cause a decrease in the number of white
blood cells , cells that help protect the body against
Although radiation therapy can cause side effects, these
can usually be treated or controlled. Most side effects are
temporary, but some may be persistent or occur months to years
later. The National Cancer Institute booklet Radiation
Therapy and You has helpful information about
radiation therapy and managing its side effects.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer
cells. The doctor may use one drug or a combination of drugs.
Chemotherapy may be the only kind of treatment a patient
needs, or it may be combined with other forms of treatment.
Neoadjuvant chemotherapy refers to drugs given before surgery
to shrink a tumor; adjuvant chemotherapy refers to drugs given
after surgery to help prevent the cancer from recurring.
Chemotherapy also may be used (alone or along with other forms
of treatment) to relieve symptoms of the disease.
Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles: a treatment period
(one or more days when treatment is given) followed by a
recovery period (several days or weeks), then another
treatment period, and so on. Most anticancer drugs are given
by injection into a vein (IV );
some are injected into a muscle or under the skin; and some
are given by mouth.
Often, patients who need many doses of IV chemotherapy
receive the drugs through a catheter
(a thin, flexible tube) that stays in place until treatment is
over. One end of the catheter is placed in a large vein in the
arm or the chest; the other end remains outside the body.
Anticancer drugs are given through the catheter. Patients who
have catheters avoid the discomfort of having a needle
inserted into a vein for each treatment. Patients and their
families learn how to care for the catheter and keep it
Sometimes the anticancer drugs are given in other ways. For
example, in an approach called intraperitoneal
chemotherapy , anticancer drugs are placed directly
into the abdomen
through a catheter. To reach cancer cells in the central
nervous system (CNS), the patient may receive intrathecal
chemotherapy . In this type of treatment, the
anticancer drugs enter the cerebrospinal
fluid through a needle placed in the spinal column or
a device placed under the scalp.
Usually a patient has chemotherapy as an outpatient (at the
hospital, at the doctor's office, or at home). However,
depending on which drugs are given, the dose, how they are
given, and the patient's general health, a short hospital stay
may be needed.
The side effects of chemotherapy depend mainly on the drugs
and the doses the patient receives. As with other types of
treatment, side effects vary from person to person. Generally,
anticancer drugs affect cells that divide rapidly. In addition
to cancer cells, these include blood cells, which fight
infection, help the blood to clot, and carry oxygen to all
parts of the body. When blood cells are affected, patients are
more likely to get infections, may bruise or bleed easily, and
may feel unusually weak and very tired. Rapidly dividing cells
in hair roots and cells that line the digestive tract may also
be affected. As a result, side effects may include loss of
hair, poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, or mouth
and lip sores.
Hair loss is a major concern for many people with cancer.
Some anticancer drugs only cause the hair to thin, while
others may result in the loss of all body hair. Patients may
cope better if they prepare for hair loss before starting
treatment (for example, by buying a wig or hat). Most side
effects go away gradually during the recovery periods between
treatments, and hair grows back after treatment is over.
Some anticancer drugs can cause long-term side effects such
as loss of fertility
(the ability to produce children). Loss of fertility may be
temporary or permanent, depending on the drugs used and the
patient's age and sex. For men, sperm
banking before treatment may be an option. Women's
menstrual periods may stop, and they may have hot flashes and
vaginal dryness. Periods are more likely to return in young
women. The National Cancer Institute booklet Chemotherapy
and You has helpful information about chemotherapy and
coping with side effects.
Hormone therapy is used against certain cancers that
depend on hormones
for their growth. Hormone therapy keeps cancer cells from
getting or using the hormones they need. This treatment may
include the use of drugs that stop the production of certain
hormones or that change the way they work. Another type of
hormone therapy is surgery to remove organs (such as the
ovaries or testicles) that make hormones.
Hormone therapy can cause a number of side effects.
Patients may feel tired, have fluid retention, weight gain,
hot flashes, nausea and vomiting, changes in appetite, and, in
some cases, blood clots. In women, hormone therapy may cause
interrupted menstrual periods and vaginal dryness. Hormone
therapy in women may also cause either a loss of or an
increase in fertility; women taking hormone therapy should
talk with their doctor about contraception during treatment.
In men, hormone therapy may cause impotence ,
loss of sexual desire, or loss of fertility. Depending on the
drug used, these changes may be temporary, long lasting, or
permanent. Patients may want to talk with their doctor about
these and other side effects.
Biological therapy (also called immunotherapy )
helps the body's natural ability (immune
system ) to fight disease or protects the body from
some of the side effects of cancer treatment. Monoclonal
antibodies , interferon ,
factors are some types of biological therapy.
The side effects caused by biological therapy vary with the
specific treatment. In general, these treatments tend to cause
flu-like symptoms, such as chills, fever, muscle aches,
weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Patients also may bleed or bruise easily, get a skin rash, or
have swelling. These problems can be severe, but they go away
after the treatment stops.
marrow transplantation (BMT) or peripheral
stem cell transplantation (PSCT) may also be used
in cancer treatment. The transplant may be autologous (the
person's own cells that were saved earlier), allogeneic (cells
donated by another person), or syngeneic (cells donated by an
identical twin). Both BMT and PSCT provide the patient with
cells (very immature cells that mature into blood
cells). These replace stem cells that have been damaged or
destroyed by very high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation
Patients who have a BMT or PSCT face an increased risk of
infection, bleeding, and other side effects due to the high
doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation they receive. The most
common side effects associated with the transplant itself are
nausea and vomiting during the transplant, and chills and
fever during the first day or so. In addition, graft-versus-host
disease (GVHD) may occur in patients who receive bone
marrow from a donor. In GVHD, the donated marrow (the graft)
reacts against the patient's (the host's) tissues (most often
the liver, the skin, and the digestive tract). GVHD can be
mild or very severe. It can occur any time after the
transplant (even years later). Drugs may be given to reduce
the risk of GVHD and to treat the problem if it occurs.
Nutrition During Cancer Treatment
Eating well during cancer treatment means getting enough
calories and protein to help prevent weight loss and maintain
strength. Eating well often helps people feel better and have
Some people with cancer find it hard to eat because they
lose their appetite. In addition, common side effects of
treatment, such as nausea, vomiting, or mouth and lip sores,
can make eating difficult. Often, foods taste different. Also,
people being treated for cancer may not feel like eating when
they are uncomfortable or tired.
Doctors, nurses, and dietitians can offer advice on how to
get enough calories and protein during cancer treatment.
Patients and their families can find many useful tips in the
National Cancer Institute booklet Eating
Hints for Cancer Patients.
Pain is a common problem for people with some types of
cancer, especially when the cancer grows and presses against
other organs and nerves. Pain may also be a side effect of
treatment. However, pain can generally be relieved or reduced
with prescription medicines or over-the-counter drugs as
recommended by the doctor. Other ways to reduce pain, such as
relaxation exercises, may also be useful. It is important for
patients to report pain so that steps can be taken to help
For additional information about pain control, people with
cancer and their families may wish to refer to the materials
listed in the "National
Cancer Institute Booklets " section.
Rehabilitation is an important part of the overall cancer
treatment process. The goal of rehabilitation is to improve a
person's quality of life. The medical team, which may include
doctors, nurses, a physical therapist, an occupational
therapist, or a social worker, develops a rehabilitation plan
to meet each patient's physical and emotional needs, helping
the patient return to normal activities as soon as
Patients and their families may need to work with an
occupational therapist to overcome any difficulty in eating,
dressing, bathing, using the toilet, or other activities.
Physical therapy may be needed to regain strength in muscles
and to prevent stiffness and swelling. Physical therapy may
also be necessary if an arm or leg is weak or paralyzed, or if
a patient has trouble with balance.
It is important for people who have had cancer to continue
to have examinations regularly after their treatment is over.
Followup care ensures that any changes in health are
identified, and if the cancer recurs ,
it can be treated as soon as possible. Checkups may include a
careful physical exam, imaging procedures, endoscopy, or lab
Between scheduled appointments, people who have had cancer
should report any health problems to their doctor as soon as
they appear. (Source: excerpt from What You Need To Know About Cancer -- An Overview: NCI)
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