So, you have cancer.
As you try to wrap your brain around the reality of your life-altering diagnosis, you also must begin considering plans for treatment. It’s often a lot of information to absorb and understand and completely normal to feel overwhelmed and confused.
Here is a guide to some of the most common cancer treatments currently available and their potential side effects, as well as exciting new therapies on the horizon…
Most common cancer treatments
“The type of treatment a patient will receive depends on the type of cancer they have and the stage of the cancer,” explained Mridula Reddy, MD, hematologist/oncologist with Dayton Physicians Network. “Metastatic cancers are those that have spread to other parts of the body – they almost always involve chemotherapy or immunotherapy.”
Local treatments affect cancer cells in the tumor and the area near it.
- Surgery: Works best for removing solid tumors localized in one area. Possible side effects include pain at and around site of incision and the usual surgical risks of excessive bleeding and infection.
- Radiation: High doses of radiation are used to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Possible side effects often depend on the body part treated and can include fatigue, skin changes and hair loss.
Systemic treatments affect cancer cells throughout the body.
- Chemotherapy: A specific combination a drugs used to kill cancer cells, given orally with pills or intravenously (IV). Possible side effects: fatigue, nausea/vomiting, mouth sores, hair loss, low blood counts and infection.
- Targeted therapy: Unlike traditional chemotherapy that acts on all quickly dividing cells – normal and cancerous – targeted therapy drugs block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules (“molecular targets”) involved in the growth, progression and spread of cancer. Targets typically are identified by having a tumor specimen sent for molecular testing. Possible side effects: fatigue, nausea, low blood count, and diarrhea.
“Targeted therapy is not applicable for every patient,” said Dr. Reddy. “The molecular targets must be present for the drugs to work.”
- Immunotherapy: This treatment harnesses the power of a person’s own immune system to recognize cancer cells and strengthens its response to destroy them. Possible side effects include mouth sores, skin reactions and flu-like symptoms.
The future of cancer treatments
“Many of the exciting new treatments on the horizon have to do with immunotherapy,” said Dr. Reddy. “Clinical trials for new treatments, such as CAR T-cell therapy, are providing an option for patients where none have existed.”
Dayton Physicians Network is proud to provide patients access to many promising clinical trials, as well as state-of-the-art radiation oncology treatments, including TrueBeam™ STx advanced image-guided radiation therapy and short-course, high-dose brachytherapy. In addition, with 13 practice locations in the Miami Valley, from Greenville to Middletown, patients can receive cutting-edge cancer care while remaining close to home.
“Our treatment plans are very comprehensive and individualized to each patient,” said Dr. Reddy. “Talking with your physician and learning as much as you can about the best options available to you will go a long way toward helping you feel good about whichever treatment option you choose.”
Click here to learn more about Dayton Physicians Network cancer care, or call 937-293-1622937-293-1622.