Cancer Treatments

After the diagnosis of the disease, the doctor will discuss the treatment options with the patient, which will depend on the type and stage of the tumor, location, the general health status of the patient and the possible side effects.

The main types of cancer treatments are:

  • Surgery .  Cancer surgery is the oldest type of cancer therapy. It is the main treatment used for various types of cancer and can be curative when the disease is diagnosed at an early stage. Surgery can also be performed for the purpose of diagnosis, as in surgical biopsy, relief of symptoms such as pain and in some cases of metastasis removal when the patient has favorable conditions for the procedure.
  • Chemotherapy . Chemotherapy treatment uses anticancer drugs to destroy tumor cells. Because it is a systemic treatment, it affects not only cancer cells but also healthy cells in the body. In general, chemotherapy is administered intravenously, although some chemotherapeutic agents can be administered orally and can be done by applying one or more chemotherapeutic agents. The chemo according to its objective, can be curative (when used with the objective of obtaining complete control of the tumor), adjuvant (when performed after surgery, in order to eliminate the remaining cancer cells, decreasing the incidence of recurrence and metastases distance), neoadjuvant (when performed to reduce the size of the tumor,
  • Radiotherapy . It is the use of ionizing radiation to destroy or inhibit the growth of abnormal cells that form a tumor. There are several types of radiation, but the most used are electromagnetic (X-rays or gamma rays) and electrons (available in high-energy linear accelerators). Although normal cells can also be damaged by radiation therapy, they can usually repair themselves, which is not the case for cancer cells. Radiotherapy is always carefully planned to preserve healthy tissue as much as possible. However, there will always be healthy tissue that will be affected by the treatment, causing possible side effects. There are several types of radiotherapy and each has a specific indication depending on the type of tumor and stage of the disease: external radiotherapy, 3D conformational radiotherapy, intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), stereotactic radiosurgery (Gamma Knife) and brachytherapy. Radiotherapy can be used as the main treatment for cancer, as adjuvant treatment (after surgical treatment), as neoadjuvant treatment (before surgical treatment), as palliative treatment, to relieve symptoms of the disease such as pain or bleeding and for treatment of metastases.
  • Hormone therapy.  It is a therapeutic modality that aims to prevent the action of hormones in sensitive cells. Some tumor cells have specific receptors for hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone and androgen and in some types of cancer, such as breast and prostate cancer, these hormones are responsible for the growth and proliferation of malignant cells. Therefore, hormone therapy is a form of systemic treatment that leads to a decrease in the level of hormones or blocks the action of these hormones in tumor cells, with the aim of treating malignant tumors dependent on the hormonal stimulus. Hormone therapy can be used alone or in combination with other therapeutic forms.
  • Target Therapy.  It is a type of systemic treatment that uses molecular target drugs that specifically or at least preferentially target certain elements found on the surface or inside of cancer cells. Each type of target therapy works in a different way, but they all change the way a cancer cell grows, divides, repairs itself, or how it interacts with other cells. Molecular target drugs can be used alone or in combination with other therapeutic forms.
  • Immunotherapy . It is a biological treatment whose objective is to enhance the immune system, using antibodies produced by the patient or in the laboratory. The immune system is responsible for fighting infections, in addition to other diseases. Acting in blocking certain factors, immunotherapy causes an increase in the immune response, stimulating the action of the body’s defense cells, causing these cells to recognize the tumor as an aggressive agent.
  • Personalized Medicine .  It is a concept that aims to treat the patient’s health in an exclusive way, analyzing each case individually, taking into account individualized information in relation to the patient’s history and clinical, genetic (genes), genomics (DNA) and environmental data. Personalized medicine considers each patient unique and can be used to understand a person’s genetics and understand the biology of the tumor. Based on this information, doctors hope to identify prevention, screening and treatment strategies that may be more effective and have fewer side effects than would be expected in conventional treatments.
  • Bone marrow transplant.Bone marrow is found inside bones and contains stem cells, responsible for the formation of blood components: red blood cells (red blood cells), leukocytes (white blood cells) and platelets. Bone marrow transplantation (BMT) is the collection of bone marrow for the treatment of some types of cancer, for example, leukemias, lymphomas and multiple myeloma. After high-dose chemotherapy, with or without radiation therapy, the patient (recipient) receives the bone marrow through a transfusion, either from the patient or from a donor. Bone marrow transplantation can be: allogeneic (when the marrow or the precursor cells come from another individual (donor), the donor and the recipient are different people) or autologous (when the marrow or the precursor cells come from the transplanted individual,

It is important that all treatment options are always discussed with the doctor, as well as their effectiveness and possible side effects, to help make the decision that best suits the needs of each patient.

by Abdullah Sam
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