Cancer can be treated in many different ways. The form of treatment is recommended by a health professional and depends on the type of cancer, how advanced it is, and other personal factors.
Chemotherapy involves the use of specialised drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be used on its own or in combination with other types of treatment. Your health practitioner may recommend chemotherapy to shrink a tumour before surgery, to destroy remaining cancer cells after surgery, or to improve symptoms and prolong life, when it is not possible to treat the cancer.
Chemotherapy is often used to treat ovarian cancer, and is usually required alongside surgery. Chemotherapy treatment is given under the guidance of a medical oncologist, and depends on the type and stage of the ovarian cancer and the women’s general health.
Radiation therapy is the use of x-rays (radiation) to destroy or injure cancer cells so they cannot multiply. Similarly to chemotherapy, radiotherapy can be used on its own or in combination with other treatment methods.
Radiation therapy is often used to treat bowel cancer. Bowel cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the wall of the large intestine grow in an uncontrolled way. Radiation therapy is usually used when surgery is required, depending on the stage and location of the cancer.
Other types of cancers that are treated with radiation therapy include lung cancer and brain cancer.
Surgery is the most common type of treatment for many cancers, especially when the tumour is localised. Generally, the cancer along with normal tissue (a margin) is removed to ensure that there are no microscopic traces of the tumour remaining. Surgery can be undertaken for a range of reasons, including to diagnose the tumour, and to remove the tumour. Surgery can also be used as a combination treatment to remove as much of the tumour as possible prior to further treatment, or as a palliative option to relieve symptoms.
Breast cancer is a form of cancer that uses surgery as a main form of treatment. In patients with breast cancer, abnormal cells develop in the breast and form tumours which invade the surrounding breast tissue. Surgery is used to remove part or all of the affected breast tissues, as well as one or more lymph nodes from the armpit.
Lung cancer and brain cancer are two other types of cancer that primarily use surgery as a form of cancer treatment.
Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses certain parts of a person’s immune system (a collection of organs, special cells and substances that help protect from infections and some other diseases) to treat cancer. Immunotherapies are thought to work by slowing the growth and spread of cancer cells, and by helping the immune system destroy existing cancer cells.
Immunotherapy can be given in multiple ways which includes oral or liquid form, as pills or tablets, intravenously through an injection into a vein, topically, as a cream, or intravesically, administered into the bladder.
The main types of immunotherapy treatments are monoclonal antibodies, nonspecific immunotherapies, and cancer vaccines. Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia uses monoclonal antibodies which attach to cancer cells, directing the immune system to destroy specific cells.
A stem cell transplant replaces blood-forming cells within bone marrow, including the cancer cells, that have been destroyed by chemotherapy with healthy stem cells. These cells develop into new bone marrow and produce healthy blood cells. A stem cell transplant can use your own stem cells (autologous transplantation) or stem cells from a donor (allogeneic transplantation).
This treatment may be recommended for people with blood cancers such as leukaemia, myeloma or lymphoma.
A bone marrow transplant is very similar to a stem cell transplant. Instead of replacing blood-forming cells in your bone marrow, a bone marrow transplant uses stem cells from your bone marrow instead of your bloodstream. This form of treatment is also recommended for people with blood cancers such as leukaemia, myeloma or lymphoma.
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