Cancer is a life-threatening disease that shortens an individual’s lifespan by forming malignant tumors. These tumors are abnormal cells that rapidly grow and spread beyond their boundaries and invade other parts of the body, damaging the healthy body parts ultimately resulting in death.
Cancer treatment varies depending on several factors such as cancer stage at diagnosis, speed of growth and type of cancer cells, overall patient’s health condition, and personal wishes. Some cancer types are curable, while others are not. Cancer treatments are primary, adjuvant, or palliative in nature, yielding different outcomes. The primary treatment completely removes or kills the cancer cells from the body. Surgery is the most common cancer treatment for several types of cancer. The adjuvant therapy starts after the primary treatment to reduce the chances of regrowth of cancer cells. Palliative treatments play a crucial role in relieving the side effects of cancer treatments.
Here are the ten ways doctors use to cure cancer patients.
Surgery is considered the primary treatment for cancer patients where surgeons remove cancerous cells from the body. It is performed to remove the entire tumor or some part of the tumor that causes hindrance to the other treatments. After removal, other treatments work better. Different types of surgeries are available depending on the purpose of the surgery, the body part that needs surgery, and the tissue part that requires removal. Surgery is open or minimally invasive. In open surgery, the surgeon makes a large cut to remove the tumor and some nearby lymph nodes. While, in the case of minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon makes a few small cuts.
A doctor uses liquid nitrogen or argon gas to produce extreme cold to freeze and destroy cancer cells in cryotherapy treatment. It is also called cryoablation, providing tissue treatment externally and internally. This type of treatment is an invasive therapy usually done without open surgery. Cryotherapy is recommended for mesothelioma, bone cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, precancerous skin conditions, and early-stage skin cancers.
Chemotherapy, commonly known as ‘chemo,’ treats cancer patients by using drugs to kill cancer cells. It either stops or slows down the growth of cancerous cells, thus playing an effective role in reducing the chances of cancer returning. Chemo also helps patients by shrinking painful tumors. Patients receive chemo in cycles; for instance, they get chemotherapy every day for a week, followed by a rest period of 3 weeks, making up a cycle. This rest time allows the body to recover and create healthy and normal cells.
Radiation therapy or radiotherapy uses high doses of radiation are used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors by damaging their DNA. Cancer cells lose the power to replicate and die after DNA damage. They break down, and ultimately the body removes them. It is a long-term process and takes days or even weeks to damage DNA enough for cancer cells to die. After radiation therapy ends, they continue to die for weeks or months. However, there is a safe limit for a body area to receive radiation in a lifetime. After reaching that limit, the body cannot receive further radiation therapy.
Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment in which the body’s immune system fights the cancer cells. It consists of white blood cells and tissues of the lymph system that help the body fight against infections and other diseases. Immunotherapy uses substances made from living organisms for cancer treatment. It assists the immune system in fighting against cancer more effectively. Although, this treatment is not as widely used compared to surgery and chemotherapy.
Hormone therapy treats cancer by slowing down or stopping the growth of cancer cells that thrive on hormones. It is also called hormone treatment or endocrine therapy. Hormone therapy works by either blocking the body’s ability to generate hormones or by interfering with the ways they operate in the body. It is commonly used with other cancer treatments to cure prostate and breast cancers.
Hyperthermia treats cancer by heating body tissues to as high as 113 °F temperature to damage and kill cancer cells. It causes minor or no harm to other normal tissues of the body. Other names of hyperthermia include thermal therapy, thermotherapy, or thermal ablation. Hyperthermia is not a widely used cancer treatment; however, it has been used to treat mesothelioma, appendix cancer, brain cancer, cervical cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, sarcoma, and rectal cancer.
Stem Cell Transplant
Stem cell transplants restore blood-forming stem cells in those cancer patients who have undergone high doses of chemotherapy or radiation, destroying their cells. These blood-forming cells are essential for a healthy body. It does not work directly against cancer. However, stem cell transplants help your body regain the ability to produce stem cells after heavy exposure to radiation or chemo. They are most often used to treat leukemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, and multiple myeloma.
Photodynamic therapy cures cancer patients by using a drug called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent. Light coming from a laser or LED is the source of activating this drug and is usually used for the treatment of specific parts of the body.
The FDA has permitted photodynamic therapy to treat actinic keratosis, advanced cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, Barrett esophagus, basal cell skin cancer, etc. In addition, photodynamic therapy relieves symptoms of esophageal cancer, blocking the throat and non-small cell lung cancer blocking the airways.
Targeted Drug Therapy
Targeted drug therapy treats cancer by targeting proteins that control the growth, replication, and spread of cancer cells. It serves as the foundation of precision medicine and helps researchers get information about DNA changes and design effective treatments for targeting cancer-causing proteins.
Biomarker testing is the technique that doctors use to identify targets for cancer and choose treatment plans. They might recommend biopsy for biomarker testing in which a piece of the tumor is removed for testing. However, biopsy involves certain risks depending upon the size and location of the tumor.
It is vital to understand that, unlike other diseases, cancer has its language. Some types of cancers are curable depending on the early diagnosis or types of tumors. While others are not, and most of the time, doctors hesitate to inform about the final result of treatment. They don’t commit to complete recovery after treatment. However, effective therapy or medication can ease the pain and reduce symptoms caused by cancerous cells.