Cancer is a broad term. It describes diseases when cellular changes cause cells to grow and divide out of control. Some types of cancer cause cells to grow rapidly, while others slow cell growth and division. Some forms of cancer cause visible changes called tumours, while others (such as leukaemia) do not.
Cancer is a global health problem, responsible for one in six deaths worldwide. Traditional treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy are used, while major advances have been made in recent years, including stem cell therapy, targeted therapies, etc. So, here is an overview of each treatment for cancer and how they work.
Why is it Necessary to Understand the Risk Factors?
It is necessary to understand the risk factors of cancer because it can help in the prevention and early detection of the disease. In addition, knowing the risk factors can help people make lifestyle choices that can reduce their risk of developing cancer, such as quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and avoiding excessive exposure to sunlight and other harmful substances.
Additionally, understanding the risk factors of cancer can help doctors identify people at higher risk of developing certain types of cancer and recommend appropriate screening tests.
Furthermore, identifying the risk factors of cancer can help researchers develop new strategies for prevention and treatment.
What are the different types of Cancer Treatment?
Cancer treatment is a highly complex process. Traditional treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy are used, while major advances have been made in recent years, including stem cell therapy and targeted therapies.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill rapidly dividing cancer cells. There are many types of chemotherapy drugs, but they all work in similar ways. They prevent cancer cells from multiplying, preventing them from growing and spreading in the body. Chemotherapy helps –
Chemotherapy can be used:
- To cure cancer completely (curative chemotherapy)
- To make other treatments more effective – for example, it can be used in combination with radiotherapy (chemoradiotherapy) or before surgery (chemotherapy neoadjuvant)
Types of Chemotherapy:
The most common types are
- Intravenous chemotherapy (intravenous chemotherapy) – this is usually given in a hospital and involves giving drugs through a tube into a vein in the hand, arm, or chest.
- Chemotherapy tablets (oral chemotherapy) are usually given at home, with regular check-ups in the hospital.
You may receive chemotherapy medicine or a combination of different types.
Hyperthermia is a treatment that heats body tissues to temperatures up to 113°F to destroy cancer cells without damaging normal tissue. Hyperthermia to treat cancer is also known as thermal therapy, thermal ablation, or thermotherapy.
It can be used:
So that it can benefit other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, work better.
Types of hyperthermia:
The type of local heat therapy used depends on the tumour’s location.
- External hyperthermia is used to treat tumours on or under the skin. The doctor places heat-generating devices around or near the treated section for this type of heat therapy.
- Intraluminal or endocavitary hyperthermia helps treat tumours in or near body cavities like the oesophagus or rectum.
- Interstitial hyperthermia helps to treat tumours deep in the body, such as brain tumours.
Radiation therapy destroys cancer cells by using radioactive x-rays, particles, or seeds. Cancer cells spread faster than normal cells in the body. Since radiation is more harmful to rapidly growing cells, radiation therapy can damage cancer cells more than normal cells. This prevents cancer cells from growing and dividing and leads to cell death.
Radiation therapy can be used:
- To treat cancer and relieve symptoms of cancer.
- To prevent it from coming back, and stop or slow its growth.
Types of Radiation therapy:
- External Beam. This is the most common form. It directs X-rays or particles to the tumour from outside the body.
- Internal Beam. This form delivers radiation into your body. It can be administered as a radioactive seed placed in or near the tumour, a liquid or pill you swallow, or through a vein.
Targeted therapy is used to stop cancer from expanding further. It causes less damage to normal cells than to other treatments. Standard chemotherapy works by killing cancer cells and some normal cells. Targeted therapy focuses on specific targets (molecules) within cancer cells. These targets play a role in the growth and survival of cancer cells.
Targeted therapy can be used:
- To disable processes in cancer cells that allow them to grow and spread
- To enable cancer cells to die on their own
A few therapies are:
- Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that relies on the body’s ability to fight infections (the immune system). It uses substances made by the body or in the laboratory to help the immune system work harder or in a more targeted way to fight cancer. It helps your body get rid of cancer cells.
- Hormone therapy treats cancers caused by hormones, such as breast and ovarian cancers. It uses surgery or drugs to shut down or block the body’s natural hormones. As a result, it helps slow the growth of cancer cells. The surgery involves removing a hormone-producing organ: the ovary or the testicle. These drugs are given by injection or in tablets.
- Laser therapy uses very narrow, focused beams to destroy cancer cells. Laser therapy can be used to:
- destroy tumours and precancerous lesions
- shrink tumours that block the stomach, colon, or oesophagus
Laser treatment is usually given through a thin, lighted tube inserted into the body. Fine fibres at the end of the tube guide the light to the cancer cells.
Surgery is a method in which a surgeon removes cancer from your body.
How the surgery is performed?
During surgery, tools such as scalpels are used to cut through your body. Surgery often involves cutting skin, muscle, and sometimes bone(in case of bone cancer). The surgeon removes cancerous parts with utmost precision ensuring no harm to the surrounding healthy tissue. Care is taken to remove the last cancer cell without impairing bodily function.
Types of Surgery
There are many types of surgery. These types vary depending on the aim of the surgery, the section of the body that needs to be operated on, the amount of tissue to be removed, and, sometimes, the patient’s preference.
Surgery can be open or minimally invasive.
- In open surgery, a large incision is made to eliminate the tumour, some healthy tissue, and possibly some nearby lymph nodes.
- In minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon makes several small incisions instead of one large incision. A long, thin tube is inserted with a small camera into one of the small slots. This tube is called a laparoscope. The camera projects images inside the body onto a monitor, allowing the surgeon to see what they are doing. Surgeons use special surgical tools inserted through other small incisions to remove the tumour.
Complications of Cancer Treatment
The main complication observed in patients are
- Neutropenia- a shortage of neutrophils(a special type of White Blood Cells)
- Lymphedema- swelling due to accumulation of lymph fluid in the body
- Hair loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Problems with thinking and remembering things
- Cancer pain
- Blood clots(deep vein thrombosis)
When to Consult a Doctor
You can also get in touch with the expert oncology doctors at Narayana Healthcare based in your city to get immediate attention and medical support during injuries, health disorders or any other health concern.
Modern cancer treatment is constantly evolving, with breakthroughs and discoveries rapidly changing the course of cancer care. Deciding which combination of treatments is best for you is crucial. Unfortunately, it can also be overwhelming. This is why it is important to turn to a doctor who treats all stages of cancer.
Q. Why does diagnosis seem so late in so many cases?
A. Cancer cells can multiply to produce billions of cells before a tumour becomes large enough to be detected. This is why prevention and certain screening methods are so important.
Q. Are the side effects of chemotherapy worse than cancer?
A. Nausea and vomiting are the most serious side effects for many people. This is usually manageable.
Q. Are all cancer patients anaemic?
A. Anaemia is a medical condition that non-cancerous (benign) conditions can cause. For example, some cancers inhibit the body’s ability to produce blood normally.
Q. Will there be a problem if I miss a treatment?
A. Missing a session during your prescribed treatment period will add a day to your session. Therefore, try not to miss the session. However, your oncologist may rarely miss a diagnosis due to a low blood count or certain serious symptoms.
Q. Is exercise recommended during treatment?
A. Yes, exercise is safe for people undergoing aggressive cancer treatment, and it may be one of the best ways to relieve some of the symptoms associated with your cancer or your cancer treatment.
Q. When is Cancer treatment started?
A. If the general practitioner finds you have cancer and refers you urgently, you don’t need to wait more than two weeks to consult a specialist. In the case of confirmed cancer, the time between the decision and the start of treatment must not exceed 31 days.
Q. How do you know treatment is working
A. After treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy, the doctor will look into any new growth. You will also have tests that involve X-rays, biopsies, blood tests, and other imaging tests. These tests will calculate your tumour and see if your treatment has slowed or stopped your cancer.