No two cancers are the same. Your doctors will consider the type and stage of your cancer, the scientific evidence that the treatment works for your type of cancer and any other health issues you have. You will be encouraged to help make the final treatment choices.
Your treatment will be provided by a team of doctors, nursed and other healthcare specialists. Ask any one of them for help when you need it.
Cancer patients often have a combination of treatments, which may include –
It is an operation to remove part or all of the tumour and some surrounding tissue. A decision to have surgery depends on where the tumour is and how close it is to vital organs.
Also called radiation therapy, this comprises the use of high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. Side effects may occur as a result of some damage to tissues near the tumour, but these can usually be controlled. In external radiotherapy the rays are carefully aimed at the tumour avoiding surrounding healthy tissue. In internal radiotherapy or brachytherapy, radioactive material is placed directly into a tumour.
It is the use of drugs or medications that interfere with the cancer cell’s ability to grow and spread. Healthy cells can be affected during treatment, so you may experience side effects like nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, hair loss and an increased risk of infection. Most people handle chemotherapy fairly well, and the side effects can usually reduce or controlled.
Given by tablet or injection, it may be used to shrink the tumour. There may be side effects but they can usually be reduced or controlled.
Supportive care is offered to all cancer patients. It will help you cope with the side effects or treatment as well as emotional, spiritual and practical concerns, such as help at home and transportation to treatment.
For patients whose cancer is treatable but not curable, special palliative care programmes may be offered.
Some people choose to use other therapies together with their conventional treatments. These have not been shown to be effective by scientific methods, but many people say they have been helped by therapies like acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. More research is needed to understand how these therapies might work and if they are effective. Tell you doctor if you are using these therapies as they might affect tests or treatments.
Alternative therapies are used instead of conventional treatments. They have not been shown to be safe or effective against cancer by scientific methods. Before deciding to use alternative therapies , find out as much as you can and discuss it with your healthcare team.
What are clinical trials ?
At any time in your treatment you may be asked if you would like to tale part in a clinical trial. You do not have to do this ~ the choice is up to you. Clinical trials are research studies to test ways of preventing and managing cancer. They must be done very carefully and are not available to all patients. Ask your doctor if there is a clinical trial that is suitable for you. You may benefit and so may future cancer patients.
How do I help myself?
Source : Courtesy American Cancer Society, Canadian Cancer Society and Zeneca Pharmaceuticals Group, USA.