With today’s medical advancements, a number of cancer treatment options exist for patients. Common types of cancer treatment options include cancer drugs, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Cancer treatment involves a customized treatment option plan based on a number of factors. When determining cancer treatment options, specialists will consider factors such as the stage and prognosis of the cancer, risk assessment of certain treatment options and their likelihood of success, and how well each patient may respond to treatment.
Finding the Right Treatment Options for Cancer
Patients may be overwhelmed when choosing treatment options. Before discussing treatment options, patients are recommended to establish ground rules, including their personal level of involvement. Many patients wish to collaborate with doctors, while some patients may decide to leave all major decisions to the doctor. Determining what type of role the patient will play in the treatment process will help to set expectations and define structure in the treatment process.
Benefits vs. Risks
Choosing treatment options relies heavily on the assessment of each treatment’s potential benefits and risks. Doctors and patients should consider a number of factors in order to find the most suitable treatment plan. Often, the patient’s personal values and goals will shape the treatment process.
Considerations for a patient’s treatment plan should include:
- Potential side effects and how they may affect the quality of the patient’s life
- The patient’s general health and how coexisting conditions may react to cancer treatment options
- Treatment costs, patient affordability, and how the patient will be impacted
Radiation Treatment Options
Radiation therapy is primarily used for cases where the patient’s cancer has not yet metastasized, or spread to other areas of the body. Radiation therapy is used to damage or destroy cancer cells and prevent growth. More than half of cancer patients undergo radiation therapy at some stage in the cancer treatment process. Before considering radiation, patients and doctors should discuss potential side effects. Side effects of radiation therapy may include fatigue, skin changes in the treated area, and appetite loss.
Surgical Treatment Options
Surgery is a common type of cancer treatment option, and one of the most successful. Surgery is most helpful when the cancer appears to be localized in a particular area of the body. Surgery becomes less effective in cases where the cancer has metastasized. Surgery may be combined with other cancer treatment options, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy Treatment Options
Chemotherapy, often referred to as simply “chemo,” is more commonly considered in cases where the cancer has metastasized. The specific goal of chemotherapy depends on the type and stage of the cancer. Chemotherapy may be used to cure the cancer entirely, prevent its spread or slow its growth, kill cancerous cells that may have metastasized, or relieve the patient’s cancer symptoms. Chemotherapy involves strong drugs that are administered by injection or by mouth.
Alternative Cancer Treatment
Alternative cancer treatments are typically used to relieve cancer symptoms as opposed to treating or curing cancer. Alternative treatments focus on improving the overall health of the patient. It is believed that the body will then react favorably, resulting in symptom improvement. It is important to note that alternative cancer treatments do not show clinical benefits for treating cancer. Therefore, it is generally recommended to use alternative treatments in conjunction with established cancer treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy.
Types of alternative cancer treatment may include:
- Vitamins, herbs, and supplements for general health or specific symptoms
- Special diets, which may improve nutrient absorption and bodily system functioning as a whole
- Stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, and aromatherapy
- Pain relief techniques such as acupuncture, massage, and exercise
Cancer Treatment Clinical Trials
Clinical trials play an important role in cancer research and development of treatment options. Clinical trials involve volunteers to participate in testing new treatment options, such as cancer drugs and procedures. The American Cancer Society states that despite the importance and value of clinical trials, a mere five percent of cancer patients are currently involved. Patients are encouraged to consult organizations such as the American Cancer Society, which provides a matching service to help find clinical trials that are most appropriate for each patient’s condition.
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