The treatment plan depends mainly on the type of cancer and the stage of the disease. Doctors also consider the patient’s age and general health. Often, the goal of treatment is to cure the cancer. In other cases, the goal is to control the disease or to reduce symptoms for as long as possible. The treatment plan may change over time.
Your doctor can describe your treatment choices and the expected results. You and your doctor can work together to decide on a treatment plan that is best for you.
Treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells.
Chemotherapy can be used to:
• Destroy cancer cells
• Stop cancer cells from spreading
• Slow the growth of cancer cells
Chemotherapy works by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, which grow and divide quickly. But it can also harm healthy cells that divide quickly, such as those that line your mouth and intestines or cause your hair to grow. Damage to healthy cells may cause side effects. Often, side effects get better or go away after chemotherapy is over.
Chemotherapy can be given alone or with other treatments. It can help other treatments work better. For example, you may get chemotherapy before or after surgery or radiation therapy. Or you may get chemotherapy before a peripheral blood stem cell transplant.
Chemotherapy can be given in these forms:
• An IV (intravenously)
• A shot (injection) into a muscle or other part of your body
• A pill or a liquid that you swallow
• A cream that is rubbed on your skin
Adjuvant chemotherapy (postoperative treatment) can be used when there is little evidence of cancer present, but there is risk of recurrence. This can help reduce chances of developing resistance if the tumour does develop. It is also useful in killing any cancerous cells which have spread to other parts of the body. This is often effective as the newly growing tumours are fast-dividing, and therefore very susceptible.
Palliative chemotherapy is given without curative intent, but simply to decrease tumor load and increase life expectancy. For these regimens, a better toxicity profile is generally expected.
Most treatment plans include surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. Some involve hormone therapy or biological therapy. In addition, stem cell transplantation may be used so that a patient can receive very high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
In neoadjuvant chemotherapy (preoperative treatment) initial chemotherapy is designed to shrink the primary tumour, thereby rendering local therapy (surgery or radiotherapy) less destructive or more effective.
MD Anderson Childhood Cancer Types. Houston, TX: MD Anderson. Retrieved August 15, 2011 from http://www.mdanderson.org/patient-and-cancer-information/
National Institute of Health. Glossary of Cancer Terms. Retrieved September 13, 2011 from http://www.cancer.gov/dictionary?cdrid=45214
American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2009. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society. Retrieved September 1, 2011, from http://www.cancer.org/downloads/STT/CAFF2009PWSecured.pdf.
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