What are the treatment options for Cancer?
Treatment options vary, depending on the type of cancer and how far it has grown or spread. The three most common treatments are:
Surgery: It may be possible to operate and remove malignant turmours.
Chemotherapy: This is a treatment that uses anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells, or to stop them from multiplying. There are various different types of drugs used for chemotherapy. The drug or combination of drugs selected depends on the type of cancer being treated
Radiotherapy: This is a treatment that uses high energy beams of radiation which are focused on cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells, or stops cancer cells from multiplying.
Most recently other treatments have been introduced, but are NOT widely available in Kenya. These include:
- Bone marrow transplant: High dose chemotherapy may damage bone marrow cells and lead to blood problems. However, if you receive healthy bone marrow after the chemotherapy then this helps to overcome this problem.
- Hormone therapy: This is where drugs are used to block the effects of hormones. This treatment may be used for cancers that are “hormone sensitive” such as some cancers of the breast, prostate and uterus.
- Immunotherapy: Some treatments can boost the immune system to help to fight cancer. More specific immunotherapy involves injections of antibodies which aim to attack and destroy certain types of cancer cells.
- Gene therapy is a new area of possible treatments. Research is underway to find ways of blocking, repairing or replacing abnormal genes in cancer cells.
- Special techniques can sometimes be used to cut off the blood supply to tumours. The tumour then dies.
For some cancers, a combination of two or more treatments may be used. A range of other treatments may also be used to ease cancer related symptoms such as pain. See the the list of hospitals that provide cancer treatment.
What are the aims of treatment?
This can vary, depending on the cancer type, size, spread, etc. For example:
- Treatment may cure the cancer in many cases. With modern drugs and therapies, many cancers can be cured, particularly if they are treated in the early stages of the disease. Sometimes the word ‘remission’ rather than the word ‘cured’ is used to mean there is no evidence of cancer following treatment. If you are ‘in remission’, you may be cured. However, in some cases a cancer returns months or years later.
- Treatment may aim to control the cancer. If a cure is not realistic, with treatment it is often possible to limit the growth or spread of the cancer so that it progresses less rapidly. This may keep you free of symptoms for some time.
- Treatment may aim to ease symptoms. Even if a cure is not possible, a course of radiotherapy, an operation, or other techniques may be used to reduce the size of a cancer which may ease symptoms such as pain. If a cancer is advanced then you may require treatments such as painkillers, or other comfort measures to help keep you free of pain or other symptoms.
It is not possible to give an overall outlook (prognosis). As a general rule, the outlook is usually better the earlier a cancer is detected and treated. If you have been diagnosed with cancer you will have many questions.
Some questions you may want to ask your doctor
- What kind of cancer have I got?
- How large is it and has it spread to other parts of my body?
- What are the treatment options for this type of cancer?
- What are the risks and possible side effects of the treatment options?
- How successful is the treatment for my type and stage of cancer?
- Is the aim of treatment to cure or to control the cancer?
- What if I choose not to have treatment?
- Can I have a second opinion?
What lifestyle choices can I make to help me fight Cancer?
- Eat a balanced diet.*
- Get regular physical activity.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Get 10-15 minutes of sunshine a day.
- Do, eat, live everything in moderation. Reduce stress.
- Take in plenty of fresh air. Get help to stop smoking if you are a smoker.
- Allow yourself 8 hours of sleep at night for optimum rest.
- Trust – trusting in a higher power helps reduce stress.
*Balanced diet defined:
- Eat a healthy diet, with a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Eat in moderation.
- Eat food as close as possible to its natural form
- Limit your intake of processed foods
- Limit or eliminate your intake of alcohol [1 drink per day for women, 2 per day for men].