Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancer develops when the body’s normal control mechanism stops working. Old cells do not die and instead grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells. These extra cells may form a mass of tissue, called a tumor.
Fortunately, a wide range of options are available for cancer treatment now. However, which treatment you would need would depend on the type of cancer and the stage of the disease (how much advanced it is). Generally speaking, most cases of cancer require treatment with Surgery (specially when the disease is of early stage), Chemotherapy and/or Radiation Therapy. In addition, more and more oncologists are prescribing advanced cancer interventions like Immunotherapy, Targeted Therapy or Hormone Therapy. Bone Marrow Transplant is also being increasingly used to treat wide range of cancers.
Where do I start?
If you are diagnosed with Cancer, it is likely that you have undergone couple of investigations already. However, before a final decision, you would most likely need to undergo a whole lot of tests so that the Oncology team understands the exact nature and advancement of the disease. The tests may include:
- Blood Tests
- Imaging (Ultrasound, CT, MRI etc)
- Biopsy of tissue samples
- PET Scan (primarily done to see the spread of the disease)
Based on the investigations reports, the oncology team would take the final decision on your treatment.
Treatment options for Cancer
Depending on the comprehensive investigations, your oncology team will recommend one or more of the following treatment options.
Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drug that helps to slow or stop the growth of rapidly dividing cells that cause cancer. It prevents the growth of rapidly dividing cells by killing the dividing cells.
Despite its side effects, chemo is still the most widely used cancer treatment option. Unlike radiation and surgery which treats cancer cells at particular locations, chemotherapy drugs can kill cancer cells that have metastated (spread) to different organs in the body.
Radiation Therapy is a kind of cancer treatment that uses high doses of radiation beams to kill cancer cells to shrink the tumors. Radiation kills the cancer cells by destroying the DNA. Cancer cells with damaged DNA fail to multiply and die. They are then removed by the body’s mechanism.
In addition to Chemotherapy and the aforesaid treatment options, oncologists are now increasingly treating cancer through the following treatment options.
Immunotherapy (also called biologic therapy) is a new type of cancer treatment where the body’s immune system is boosted to help the body fight cancer by itself. Immunotherapy uses substances made by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore immune system function.
Targeted Drug Therapy
Targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses cancer drugs. However, it is different from traditional chemotherapy, which also uses drugs to kill cancer cells. In Targeted therapy, the cancer’s specific genes, proteins or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival are targeted. Targeted therapy is generally used with chemotherapy and other interventions.
Hormones of our body are produced in the endocrine glands like thyroid, pancreas, ovaries & testes. Some hormones may help growth of cancers like breast & prostate cancer. In hormone therapy, medications are given to deprive the cancer cells of the hormones they need to grow. In some cases, the specific gland responsible for hormone may be surgically removed.
Bone Marrow Transplant
A Bone Marrow Transplant, also called Stem Cell Transplant is a medical procedure recommendedin case of bone marrow damage. The main aim of the medical procedure is to replace a part of the bone marrow that has been destroyed due to some disease, infection, or due to chemotherapy. The replacement of the blood stem cells promotes the growth of new blood cells and tissues around the bone marrow which in turn promotes prompt recovery of the damaged area. This is primarily why this procedure is also known as the Stem Cell Transplant.