Cancer treatment is the use of radiation, medications and other therapies to cure a cancer, shrink a cancer or stop the progression of a cancer.
Many cancer treatments exist. Depending on your particular situation, you may receive one treatment or you may receive a combination of treatments.
What you can expect
Many cancer treatments are available. Your treatment options will depend on several factors, such as the type and stage of your cancer, your general health, and your preferences. Together you and your doctor can weigh the benefits and risks of each cancer treatment to determine which is best for you.
Cancer treatment options include:
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-powered energy beams, such as X-rays or protons, to kill cancer cells. Radiation treatment can come from a machine outside your body (external beam radiation), or it can be placed inside your body (brachytherapy).
- Bone marrow transplant. Your bone marrow is the material inside your bones that makes blood cells from blood stem cells. A bone marrow transplant, also knowns as a stem cell transplant, can use your own bone marrow stem cells or those from a donor.
- Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, also known as biological therapy, uses your body's immune system to fight cancer. Cancer can survive unchecked in your body because your immune system doesn't recognize it as an intruder. Immunotherapy can help your immune system "see" the cancer and attack it.
- Hormone therapy. Some types of cancer are fueled by your body's hormones. Examples include breast cancer and prostate cancer. Removing those hormones from the body or blocking their effects may cause the cancer cells to stop growing.
- Targeted drug therapy. Targeted drug treatment focuses on specific abnormalities within cancer cells that allow them to survive.
- Cryoablation. This treatment kills cancer cells with cold. During cryoablation, a thin, wandlike needle (cryoprobe) is inserted through your skin and directly into the cancerous tumor. A gas is pumped into the cryoprobe in order to freeze the tissue. Then the tissue is allowed to thaw. The freezing and thawing process is repeated several times during the same treatment session in order to kill the cancer cells.
- Radiofrequency ablation. This treatment uses electrical energy to heat cancer cells, causing them to die. During radiofrequency ablation, a doctor guides a thin needle through the skin or through an incision and into the cancer tissue. High-frequency energy passes through the needle and causes the surrounding tissue to heat up, killing the nearby cells.