Cancer is a disease caused by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that disrupts the control mechanism of a normal body. Although cancerous cells first appear in one particular area, if left unchecked, they eventually spread through lymph nodes all over the body.
That’s why awareness of symptoms and early detection significantly improve the effectiveness of cancer treatments.
After non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer, followed by lung and prostate cancer, are the most common types of cancer in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute. Other types include kidney, leukemia, liver, blood, skin, endometrial, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, thyroid, pancreatic, bladder, colon, and rectal cancer.
Cancers apart from the ones mentioned above are comparatively less common.
An oncologist will prescribe treatment and medicines based on the stage of cancer and the patient’s medical history.
- Chemotherapy: The most common type of cancer treatment uses medicines to target the dividing cancerous cells and reduce the size of tumors. While effective in killing the cells, it has severe side effects.
- Hormone therapy: Patients with cancer triggered by hormonal factors such as prostate or breast cancer are given this type of treatment. It uses medications to change the way certain hormones work.
- Immunotherapy treatment: The focus of this type of treatment is to boost the immune system with medication.
- Stem cell transplant: Also referred to as bone marrow transplant, this special type of treatment is beneficial mainly for patients with a blood cancer like leukemia or lymphoma. The procedure involves replacing damaged cells with healthy stem cells.
- Radiation therapy: In this treatment, high radiation is used to target and kill the cancerous cells. It is also used to shrink the tumor before a patient undergoes surgery.
- Surgery: Doctors will attempt to surgically remove the tumor and even eliminate the lymph nodes to stop the disease from spreading to other parts of the body.
- Targeted therapy: This treatment focuses on preventing cancer cells from multiplying and boosts the immune system.
Precision medicine or personalized medicine: A comparatively newer approach, this treatment uses a person’s genetic tests to decide the best treatment for their particular presentation of cancer. It is still under research.