According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the second leading cause of death, globally and in 2018 it led to an estimated 9.6 million deaths. The correct diagnosis of the condition helps in the effective treatment and early detection can lead to higher life expectancy post detection. There are various treatment options available; however, for those types of cancer that do not have the right treatment, clinical trials are conducted to investigate and find newer ways for improving treatments.
Read on to discover the common cancer treatments available:
One of the common types of cancer treatments, chemotherapy is used to kill cancerous cells with medications. It works by either slowing down the growth of the cancer cells or stop the growth. Chemotherapy helps in lessening the chance that the cancerous cells will return and also ease the symptoms as the treatment shrinks tumors that are painful and cause other health problems. The treatment comes with some side effects as the therapy kills both cancerous as well as healthy cells in the body. A common side effect of chemotherapy is fatigue, while others include constipation, anemia, appetite loss, hair loss, diarrhea, and edema, to name a few.
2. Radiation therapy
Also known as radiotherapy, radiation therapy is a procedure where high doses of radiation are used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. High doses of radiation slow down the growth of cancerous cells by damaging their DNA and this damages the cancer cells, thereby not letting them divide and spread. Once the damaged cells die, these are broken down and removed from the body. There are two main types of radiation therapy —internal beam and external beam. The type of therapy required by a person depends on numerous factors such as the size of the tumor, type of cancer, medical history of the patient, age, and other medical conditions. Although the cancerous cells are not instantly killed by radiation therapy as it might take a long time to damage the DNA of the cancer cells, the treatment eases symptoms and prevent the cells from returning.
3. Targeted therapy
Targeted therapy is the basis of precision medicine and it targets the changes in cancerous cells that help them in growing, dividing, and spreading. For instance, some patients may have a certain type of cancer that will have a target for a certain medication so the condition can be treated with that medication. However, the tumor needs to be tested to check if it has targets for the medications available. Targeted therapy for cancer works by helping the body’s immune system destroy cancerous cells, stopping these cells to grow, and delivering substances to cancerous cells that kill the cell. Two of the main drawbacks of this treatment is the resistance developed by the cancer cells to the medication and the difficulty to develop medications for certain targets.
4. Cancer surgery
Another common cancer treatment is surgery where the cancerous part is removed from the body. Surgeons often use scalpels, which are thin knives, to cut through skin and even bone to remove the affected area. Surgeries are local treatments considered for solid tumors contained in one area and treats only a part of the body. This treatment option cannot be considered for cancer that has spread to other parts of the body or for leukemia. Surgery works by removing the entire tumor and debulking the tumor, which is used when removing the tumor might cause damage to other body organs.