Three basic options are available for the treatment of cancer: surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. When two treatments are used together, it is called “combined modality therapy”. Each of these three options is described.
Surgery treats localized tumors. That means it is a good option if the tumor has not spread and if its location will allow it to be removed without causing major functions problems in the body. If the tumor has spread or it is located near a vital organ, surgery may not be an option.
Two surgical approaches are used. Sometimes the tumor is removed immediately following a diagnostic biopsy while the patient is still under anesthesia. Other times, surgery is performed to examine the tumor in order to gather cells for the biopsy. If the biopsy shows cancer, the physician, the patient and their family can discuss the best approach to care. This could mean further surgery or another treatment option.
The purpose of radiation is to make tumors shrink or disappear. This is accomplished by damaging the genetic structure of the tumor cells using radiation, so they can’t grow or divide. Patients experience no pain or discomfort during the actual radiation treatment, which usually only takes a few minutes. Radiation focuses in on specific sites in the body. It may be the only treatment needed, or it may be used along with other kinds of therapy.
This treatment uses special anti-cancer medications taken by mouth or administered through the patient’s veins. These medications or chemicals have a particularly direct and toxic effect on cells as they grow and divide which causes cell death and stops the tumor from growing or spreading. Chemotherapy is used in a variety of ways: