There are different types of treatment for cancer. The specific cure and subsequent treatment to prevent the spread of malignancy and recurrence would depend on the type of cancer. The stage of cancer will also determine the scope of the treatment. Some types of cancer are completely curable while others need to be regulated and that warrants long term treatment. Some advanced cases of cancer cannot be cured. Let us explore the different types of cures available for cancer.
Surgery is a common treatment for cancer. There are different types of surgery and all of them effectively remove the cancerous tumor or cancer cells from the body. Surgery can completely remove a tumor or de-bulk it and also ease the various symptoms of cancer. Surgery is by definition invasive but it is not always an open operation as was the case till a few decades back. There are minimally invasive and noninvasive surgeries that use alternatives to scalpels. The common surgical procedures for cancer are cryosurgery, laser surgery, hyperthermia and photodynamic therapy. Surgery is not always the first recommended treatment but it is often a more surefire cure. In some cases of cancer, surgery is the first recommended cure, for instance breast cancer wherein there is one malignant tumor or more.
Radiation therapy is another common cure for various types of cancer. There are two types of radiation therapy. These are external beam radiation therapy and internal radiation therapy. High but controlled doses of radiation are used to kill the cancerous or cancer cells. Radiation therapy is also used to shrink tumors. External beam radiation therapy is presently recommended for several kinds of cancer. Internal radiation therapy is usually recommended for cancers of the neck, head, breast, eye, cervix and prostate. Some thyroid cancers are also cured with internal radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy is the most common cure for cancer because it is recommended alongside other treatments. Whether a patient undergoes surgery or is recommended other methods of treatment, chemotherapy is usually required to prevent the spread of cancer and to keep the cancer in remission. Chemotherapy kills the cancer cells, much like radiation. Chemotherapy can treat cancer and also ease the various symptoms of different types of cancer. Chemotherapy can be oral, intravenous, injections, intra-thecal, intra-arterial and intra-peritoneal. There is topical chemotherapy too that is recommended in some types of cancer, mostly skin cancer.
Other treatments for cancer include immunotherapy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy, precision medicine and stem cell transplant. Immunotherapy uses various triggers to strengthen the immune system so it can fight the cancer cells. Immunotherapy may use checkpoint inhibitors, adoptive cell transfer, monoclonal antibodies or treatment vaccines.
Targeted therapy uses small molecule drugs and monoclonal antibodies to address changes in cancer cells, such as when they grow and spread or advance a stage. Hormone therapy can be oral or involve injection. It may also include a surgery. The purpose of hormone therapy is the same as immunotherapy and chemotherapy. It aims to help the body prepare itself to fight cancer cells. It is also recommended to ease the symptoms of certain types of cancer.
Precision medicine is a very specific type of treatment devised on the basis of the genetics of a person. It is not applicable to all types of cancer and it is also not for every patient suffering from cancer. Precision medicine is expected to get better in due course of time and perhaps more applicable as new researches lead to better understanding of its scope and effects.
Stem cell transplant is a specific procedure to restore the stem cells that have been destroyed due to radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Stem cells are also sometimes referred to as blood stem cells because they determine the production of blood and maintain healthy counts of different types of blood cells. Bone marrow transplant is effectively a kind of blood stem cell transplant. Stem cell transplant can be autologous, allogeneic or syngeneic.
All cures for cancer have side effects. Some side effects are more manageable than others. For instance, surgery requires extensive preparation and a patient will be vulnerable to some aftereffects but they can be completely predictable and easily managed with proactive planning. Likewise, chemotherapy and radiation therapy also have side effects but they may not be completely avertable or manageable. Patients have to endure some of the pain, discomfort and other known side effects of such procedures. Treatments for cancer are usually combined. Any one type of cure may not be effective at treating cancer and it is often incapable of averting a recurrence. Some cancers have to be persistently kept in remission and hence long term treatments become unavoidable.
Patients or families should not speculate about treatments for cancer. We have come a long way from the time when cancer was incurable. There is no immediate cure or surefire treatment that would provide an assurance that a cancer would not recur or stay confined to where it has occurred. Cancer is a fatal disease and it is still complicated, despite the advancements in diagnosis and treatment. Only an oncologist should determine the appropriate treatment for any type of cancer. It is quite possible for a cure to work differently in a particular case. Cancers are diagnosed at different stages and not everyone has the same immune system or cellular activity. There are plenty of variables so any cure for cancer has to be chosen after extensive considerations.