Treatment options depend on the cancer diagnosis. The type of cancer, the stage of cancer and certain characteristics of the cancer cells are all considered in addition to your general state of health. The physician will also take the patient's personal wishes and goals into account when planning their treatment strategy.
Treatment for cancer can be either local or systemic, depending on the diagnosis. Local treatments affect cancer cells within the tumor and the area surrounding it. Systemic treatments travel via the bloodstream, reaching cancer cells throughout the body. Surgery and radiation therapy are examples of local and systemic treatment, respectively.
Surgery is a procedure to remove the cancerous tumor. The surgeon may also remove some of the surrounding lymph nodes near the tumor, which are more susceptible that other tissues to a spreading cancer. Sometimes surgery is done on an outpatient basis. Depending on the severity of the cancer, or the extent of surgery to remove it, the patient may have to stay in the hospital.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. For some types of cancer, radiation therapy may be used instead of surgery as the primary treatment. Radiation therapy also may be given before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy) to shrink a tumor, making it easier to remove. In other cases, radiation therapy is given after surgery (adjuvant therapy) to destroy any cancer cells that may remain in the area. In cases where the affected tissues cannot be removed, radiation may be used alone, or along with other types of treatment, to relieve pain caused by the tumor.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. The physician may use one drug or a combination of drugs, and chemotherapy may be used in combination with other treatment options.
Hormone therapy is used against certain cancers that depend on hormones for their growth. Hormone therapy blocks cancer cells from receiving or utilizing the hormones they need. This treatment may include the use of drugs that stop the production of certain hormones or change the way those hormones function on the cancer cells.
Biological therapy - also called immunotherapy - can help the body’s immune system to fight disease or protect the body's healthy tissues from some of the side effects of cancer treatment. Monoclonal antibodies, interferon, interleukin-2 and cancer vaccines are common types of biological therapy.
Stem Cell Transplantation
Stem cell transplantation may also be used in cancer treatment. The transplant may be autologous (the person’s own cells that were saved earlier), allergenic (cells donated by another person), or synergetic (cells donated by an identical twin).
Continuum of Care
In addition to the above medical treatments, there are other elements of treatment, such as attention to nutrition as well as emotional, cognitive, spiritual and relationship issues in a body, mind and spirit bond. Referred to clinically as psychosocial oncology care, Boone considers it to be an equally important part of the continuum of care.