How is cancer treated?

If you have cancer, a treatment plan will be developed just for you. Your healthcare team is there to tell you about your options, and guide you in making your decisions - but the decisions are yours to make.

Before recommending a treatment plan, your healthcare team will consider many things, including:

  • the type of cancer,
  • how far the cancer has progressed,
  • the scientific evidence that the treatment works for your type of cancer,
  • your age and general health, and
  • other medical problems you have.

There are three main types of treatment for cancer:

  • Surgery - removes part, or all, of the tumour.
  • Chemotherapy - uses drugs to treat cancer. The drugs slow or even stop the growth of the cancer cells. Chemotherapy can help stop the cancer cells from multiplying and spreading to other parts of your body.
  • Radiation therapy - uses high energy radiation to damage or destroy cancer cells. High doses of radiation induces apotosis. Apotosis is a form of cell death in which a programmed sequence of events leads to the elimination of cells without releasing harmful substances into the surrounding area.

Cancer patients often have a combination of treatments. Because treatments damage healthy cells as well as cancer cells, side effects are common.

Clinical trials

Being part of a clinical trial is one way you can be treated for cancer.

Clinical trials are scientific studies that test new ways of preventing, treating or managing cancer, such as new drugs or combinations of existing treatments. They are closely monitored to make sure that the treatments are safe and effective for the participants. The cancer treatments used today were developed and tested in clinical trials.

You may be asked to take part in a trial by your healthcare team, or you might hear about a trial and ask your healthcare team about it. Learn all that you can about the trial before you decide to take part. A clinical trial may be a good choice for one person, but may not be right for someone else.

Coping with treatment

Each person's cancer experience is different, and people handle the experience in their own way. People with cancer and their families often need to:

  • deal with many practical issues, such as getting to and from treatment in another city,
  • make tough decisions about treatment, work, finances, childcare and other family issues, and
  • cope with a range of emotions, such as fear, anger, guilt, stress, loneliness, sadness and depression.

Find out more

Everyone's need for information is different, but many people feel better when they can learn and understand more about cancer and its treatment. Learning more can help you decide on a treatment plan that is right for you.

Additional resources

Prepared by the Canadian Cancer Society. This information appeared originally on the Canadian Health Network Web site.

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