There are a number of different treatment methods available for treating cancer. These include:
Chemotherapy. Chemo therapy, chemical therapy, or “chemo” is a term used to describe drugs used to treat cancer that kill cancer cells directly. Chemotherapy drugs are most often administered intravenously (through an IV inserted into a vein), though some chemo drugs come in pill, cream, or injection form. Chemotherapy drugs may be administered at home, at a doctor’s office, or in a hospital at the discretion of your doctor. Some doctors may choose to do successive chemo treatments; others may choose to space out the treatments to allow the body time to recover. Chemotherapy most often causes serious acute side effects, meaning they only last for the duration of the treatment. These may include:
- Severe fatigue
- Fragility/easy bruising
- Loss of appetite/weight loss
Unfortunately, chemotherapy can also cause more long-lasting side effects. These include:
- Tissue damage
- Heart problems
- Kidney problems
- Nerve damage
- Risk of a second cancer
Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses concentrated radiation to directly damage the DNA of cancer cells, effectively killing them. Radiation is delivered through an external machine or through a medium placed inside of the body. Radiation therapy must be pin-pointed to the exact cancerous area because it kills both healthy and cancerous cells.
Acute side effects of radiation therapy include:
Other cancer treatments include:
- Immunotherapy. During immunotherapy, drugs are given to stimulate a natural immune response against cancerous cells.
- Targeted therapies. For cancers where more is known about specific genetic causes, targeted therapies can more closely target the problem cell mutations
- Differentiating agents. Differentiating agents cause cancer cells to mature (differentiate) into normal, healthy cells.
- Hormone therapy. Hormone therapy can help slow the progression of breast, uterine, and prostate cancers.
- Surgery. When cancer is found in only one part of the body and it is likely that all of the cancer can be removed, then curative cancer can be the main treatment.