Cancer Center

Cancer Treatment

Cancer treatment
Upon diagnosis of cancer, many people experience shock or fear. In order to prepare for cancer treatment, it may help to list questions you have and bring with you when you see your doctors. You will have future opportunities to ask your doctor questions, so don't be upset if you forget one or two questions.

Treatment options for cancers depend on the type of cancer diagnosed, what stage the cancer is in, and the patient's age and health. During one course of treatment, other treatment options may be administered to handle any possible side effects. Treatment goals can change over time depending on how the cancer responds to treatment. Possible goals of treatment include:

  1. Eliminating the cancer
  2. Eliminating any remaining cancer cells after the first treatment is administered
  3. Managing symptoms of either the cancer or the treatments used

Seeking a second opinion can help you explore several treatment options. However, if treatment is immediately needed, then you need to carefully consider the risks and benefits. Sometimes, delaying treatment for a few weeks will not affect the outcome significantly. Treatment options for cancer include the following:

Biological therapy
The body's immune system recognizes cancer cells as originating from the same system. There fore, it does not attack them. Biological therapy attempts to use the body's own immune system against the cancer cells by injecting weakened, live bacteria into cancerous tissue. The body reacts by travelling to the infect area and attacking the cancer cells. Side affects can include flu-like symptoms.

During chemotherapy, chemicals are injected into the body to kill cancer cells. Side effects do occur, including feeling extremely tired; losing hair; etc. Chemotherapy may be administered at a hospital, in your doctor's office or even at home, and may be given over several days or weeks with breaks in-between to give your body time to recover.

Hormone therapy
Because some types of cancer require certain hormones in order to grow, the reduction of these hormones is considered effective treatment. Medication may be given to suppress the body's hormones, or hormone-producing organs may be removed (e.g. the testicles or ovaries). Both men and women can experience side effects of this treatment as hormones are removed from the body. Women may experience hot flashes, for example. And, men may experience breast tenderness and growth.

Radiation therapy
During this type of treatment, radiation is used to kill cancer cells. External radiation therapy provides radiation from a device outside the body; this may occur several times a week for several weeks. Internal radiation uses radiation that is put into the body through a needle or small radioactive devices that remain in place for several days. Systematic radiation therapy uses ingestible capsules that allow radioactive material to travel throughout the body. Radiation therapy side effects include red, tender skin, hair loss in the treated area and fatigue.

Support groups
Support groups and psychological counselling can be helpful in order to complement the treatment of the cancer itself. Seeking out survivors of a particular cancer through support groups may especially helpful, because you can speak with someone who has been through everything that you are going through now. Enlisting the support of friends and family, and through the use of support groups and counselling, may also be effective in ensuring that you do not feel alone in your battle against cancer.


In most cases, cancer surgery attempts to remove all cancerous growth(s) as well as some surrounding non-cancerous tissue. This strategy is used to increase the chances that the cancer does not come back. However, specific cancers involve more specific surgeries and each method should be examined for risks and side effects. Most often, a combination of several treatment methods will be used in addition to surgery.

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