Treating cancer – the options

Treatment is dependent on what kind of cancer it is, how advanced it has become, and where in the body the cancer is situated. Sometimes, more than one treatment option is needed. Here are a few of the treatment options available for fighting cancer:

Surgery

In surgery, a surgeon removes cancer from your body. The surgeon usually makes one large cut, or many smaller ones, to remove the cancerous tumour, some surrounding healthy tissue, and maybe lymph nodes, if relevant.

This kind of treatment works best for solid tumours that are concentrated in one area of the body. It does not work for leukaemia (blood cancer) or for cancers that have spread through the body.

Radiation

Radiation therapy uses radiation to slow down or kill cancer cells. It can be used to cure cancer, to slow the growth of cancer, and to prevent cancer from coming back.

Radiation can be used to shrink a tumour, which can help reduce pain or lessen complications caused by a tumour (such as problems breathing from pressure on the lungs). Radiation therapy is not an instant fix – it takes days or weeks before the cancer cells begin to die.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy works by using chemicals to by slow down, or stop the growth of fast-growing cancer cells. It can be used to cure cancer, stop or slow its growth, and prevent it from coming back.

Chemotherapy is also used to shrink tumours that are causing pain or complications in the body. It is used to treat many different kinds of cancer, and is often the only treatment necessary.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy helps your immune system fight cancer. It is a type of biological therapy. Biological therapy, which means it uses substances made from living organisms to treat the cancer. Immunotherapy makes cancer cells easy to find, so they can be more easily destroyed.

No cancer treatment is free of side-effects. Most of them involve some sort of pain or discomfort both during and after the treatment. Loss of appetite, tiredness, nausea, and sleep problems are also common side-effects that can be expected post-treatment. Make sure you address all the issues relating to your treatment with your doctor before treatment starts, so that you know what to expect.

For more information, please visit: www.cansa.org.za

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