After your cancer diagnosis, there are multiple types of treatment at your disposal. These treatments and your individualized treatment plan vary according to your specific health needs. Your cancer treatment professionals at Arizona Center for Cancer Care will help you understand your best options for getting back to better health.
The three most common types of cancer treatment are surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Many cancer patients undergo surgery, particularly if they have cancer localized in one area of their body. Surgery removes tumors and cancerous tissue, as well as tissue that your cancer affects.
Surgery also helps your surgeon understand your cancer better. During your operation the surgeon sees the cancer and how it has or has not spread. Cancer surgery offers the greatest potential for a cure for many people with cancer. This potential is greater when the tumor is localized and has not spread. Many cancer-related side effects also improve after surgery, such as when a tumor is blocking internal organs or natural processes.
For many people with cancer, surgery only makes up one part of treatment for their disease. It is one part of a multi-pronged attack on the cancer. Surgery works well with radiation therapy and chemotherapy, whether these take place before or after your surgery.
Radiation therapy is like surgery, in that it is used mostly to treat tumors and other localized cancers that have not spread to other parts of the body. Radiation damages or destroys cancer cells. It prevents these cells from growing.
About half of cancer patients receive radiation, whether alone or with surgery or chemotherapy. You receive radiation therapy through either external radiation or using implants in the body near cancerous growths.
External radiation uses high energy rays emitted from a machine. It is a painless procedure much like an X-ray. The procedure is usually performed on an outpatient basis, so you gain your treatment and then return home. Most people undergo external radiation five days per week for five to eight weeks. This course of treatment depends on your specific cancer, its size, place and type.
Your doctor places radiation implants into your body. This procedure is also known as brachytherapy. The implants are small capsules of radiation that deliver a dose to a precise area in a short amount of time. Some people receive these implants on an outpatient basis while others stay in a hospital for several days.
Like almost any procedure, radiation therapy has side effects. These effects vary from person to person. Most people feel tired and lose their appetite for a period of time. Others experience changes to the appearance of their skin in the radiation treatment area. Some experience hair loss. Some side effects do not show up for a long time, while others come and go away quickly. The good news is that most radiation side effects can be helped through available medications or treatments.
Chemotherapy, also called chemo by many patients, provides strong drugs by mouth or injection to fight your cancer. Chemo is usually a mix of multiple drugs. This type of treatment is effective for cancer that has traveled throughout your body, rather than just localized cancer. The treatment travels through your blood, so there is no part of the body it cannot reach.
Chemo often cures cancer or keeps it from spreading. It can kill cells that have already spread and slow growth of your cancer. Chemo can also relieve cancer symptoms, shrink a tumor before surgical removal and lower potential for your cancer to return after surgery.
Chemotherapy takes place in cycles with rest periods between. The rest periods may last for days or weeks, giving your body’s healthy cells some recovery time. Other chemo drugs work better when given for several consecutive days and followed by a rest period.
Chemo side effects depend on your drug types, how much you receive and length of your treatment. Most people experiencing side effects suffer some nausea and vomiting. Short term hair loss is also common, as is exhaustion and infections. Most side effects are remedied or controlled through medications, nursing support or changes to your treatment schedule. Your treatment professionals will help you find the right ways to feel better during and after chemo.
Arizona Center for Cancer Care provides more than 35 offices and 55 physicians across Maricopa County for your cancer treatment. Whether you live in the Northeast Valley, Southeast Valley or West Valley, you benefit from the best physicians, leading treatment technologies and most up-to-date research in the country, right near your home.