Cancer Treatments

Choice of cancer treatment can be influenced by several factors:

  • the specific characteristics of the cancer
  • the patient’s overall condition
  • whether the goal of treatment is to cure the cancer, keep it from spreading, or to relieve the symptoms caused by cancer 

Depending on these factors, one or more of the following treatments may be used:

Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy at The Cancer Treatment Center is administered in a calm, comfortable outpatient setting. 

A medical nncologist develops the treatment plan based on the type of cancer, the location of the tumor, the extent of its growth, how chemotherapy will affect normal body functions, and general health. The medical oncologist will determine which drug or combination of drugs, the dosage, frequency in which it should be administered, and the length of treatment that is best suited for each individual case.  

Radiation Therapy
Radiation Therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and stop them from spreading. Radiation therapy can be an external (when a machine outside your body aims radiation at cancer cells), or internal (when radiation is put inside your body, in or near the cancer cells.) 

St. Peter’s Hospital relies on a specially–trained team for delivery of radiation therapy. This team includes the radiation oncologist, medical physicist, two radiation therapists, a radiation therapy nurse and a dosimetrist.

  • Brachytherapy
    Also called seed implantation, Brachytherapy is an outpatient procedure used in the treatment of different kinds of cancer.

Radioactive “seeds” are carefully placed inside of the cancerous tissue and positioned in a manner that will attack the cancer most efficiently. Brachytherapy has been proven to be very effective and safe, providing a good alternative to surgical removal of the prostate, breast, and cervix, while reducing the risk of certain long–term side effects.

  • Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)
    IMRT is an advanced mode of high–precision radiotherapy that utilizes computer–controlled x–ray accelerators to deliver precise radiation doses to a malignant tumor or specific areas within the tumor.

The radiation dose is designed to conform to the three-dimensional (3-D) shape of the tumor by modulating—or controlling—the intensity of the radiation beam to focus a higher radiation dose to the tumor while minimizing radiation exposure to surrounding normal tissues.

Treatment is carefully planned by using 3-D computed tomography (CT) images of the patient in conjunction with computerized dose calculations to determine the dose intensity pattern that will best conform to the tumor shape. Typically, combinations of several intensity–modulated fields coming from different beam directions produce a custom tailored radiation dose that maximizes tumor dose while also protecting adjacent normal tissues.

Hormonal Therapy
Hormone therapy is a treatment that adds, blocks or replaces hormones. Depending on the individual situation, hormones may be given to adjust low levels or to slow or stop the growth of cancer. Synthetic hormones may be given to block the body's natural hormones.
Source: http://www.benefis.org/pages/default.asp?NavID=1100&PageCat=SCI

Biological or Immunotherapy
This form of therapy involves using drugs to boost the body's natural immune response (ability to fight disease). Examples of these drugs are interferon and monoclonal antibodies, which work with the body's immune system to block the growth of cancer cells. Biological therapy can be used alone or in combination with other therapies.

Surgery
The primary purpose of cancer surgery is to cure a patient’s cancer by physically removing all of it from the body. The surgeon usually does this by cutting into the body and removing the cancer along with some surrounding tissue to ensure that all of the cancer is removed. The surgeon may also remove some lymph nodes in the area to determine if the cancer has spread.

For many tumors, cancer surgery is the best chance for a cure, especially if the cancer is localized and has not spread.

Cancer surgery may also be used to achieve one or more goals:

  • Diagnosis
    Your doctor may use a form of cancer surgery to remove (biopsy) all or part of a tumor—allowing the tumor to be studied under a microscope—to determine whether the growth is cancerous (malignant) or non–cancerous (benign).
  • Cancer prevention
    If there’s reason to believe that you'll develop cancer in certain tissues or organs, your doctor may recommend removing those tissues or organs before cancer develops.
  • Staging
    Cancer surgery helps your doctor define how advanced your cancer is, called its stage. Surgery allows your doctor to evaluate the size of your tumor and determine whether it's traveled to your lymph nodes. Additional tests might be necessary to gauge your cancer's stage.
  • Debulking
    When it's not possible to remove all of a cancerous tumor—for example, because doing so may severely harm an organ—your doctor may remove as much as possible (debulking) in order to make chemotherapy or radiation more effective.
  • Relieving symptoms or side effects
    Sometimes surgery is used to improve your quality of life rather than to treat the cancer itself—for example, to relieve pain caused by a tumor that's pressing on a nerve or bone or to remove a tumor that's obstructing your intestine.
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