For many people, there is nothing scarier and more devastating than getting a cancer diagnosis. It can trigger emotions that run the gamut: disbelief, sadness, fear, anxiety, and even despair.
These feelings are all normal, and one way you can ease them is to equip yourself with as much important information as possible, such as regarding the types of treatment available, their purpose, efficacy, disadvantages, and side effects. Doing so provides you with a sense of empowerment, helps you make the necessary lifestyle adjustments and preparations, and enables you to make the best decisions about your care.
Chemotherapy is a treatment method that involves the use of drugs to eliminate cancer cells. Your doctor may use chemotherapy either as a standalone treatment or as an adjuvant therapy to accomplish the following purposes:
- To kill hidden cancer cells;
- To shrink a tumor prior to radiation or surgery and enhance their outcomes; and/or
- To alleviate your symptoms.
Chemotherapy is generally done in repeating cycles to attack the cancer cells at phases when they are most vulnerable and give the normal cells time to recover from the damage. A series of chemotherapy cycles is referred to as a course, which can take up to six months to complete.
Chemotherapy can be administered in several ways, the most common of which are orally, topically, and intravenously.
Chemotherapy is most effective at destroying cancer cells that are rapidly spreading. The treatment method has been mostly reliable for eliminating cancers of the breast, lung, and ovarian as well as lymphoma, sarcoma, and Hodgkin disease.
Despite the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs, they are not capable of distinguishing the cancer cells from the normal ones. They also greatly suppress immune function and cause significant cellular damage which, in some cases, patients are never able to recover from.
- Side Effects
Digestive problems (e.g., nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea), hair loss, pain, loss of appetite, and mouth sores are some of the common side effects of chemotherapy drugs.
Late-developing side effects include heart problems, nerve damage, and kidney problems.
If you have a solid tumor that is contained in one area, your doctor may recommend surgery to not only address the tumor but also remove some of the surrounding lymph nodes. This helps your doctor determine whether your cancer has spread there as well as assess your chance of being cured and the necessity for further treatment.
Depending on the type of cancer you have and its stage, your doctor may recommend surgery to debulk a tumor (reducing the size of a tumor by removing as much portion of it as possible to enhance the efficacy of other types of cancer treatments); remove the whole tumor, and alleviate your symptoms.
Common types of cancer surgery include the following:
- Mohs surgery
- Laparoscopic surgery
- Laser surgery
Surgery is deemed most potent at completely eliminating early-stage cancers or those that haven’t spread to other parts of the body.
A major disadvantage of surgery is that it is unable to clean out the edges of the tumor and thus may leave tumor cells after your surgery.
- Side Effects
Fatigue, edema, appetite loss, nausea and vomiting, urinary problems, and flu-like symptoms are some of the common side effects of cancer surgery.
Also called radiotherapy, this type of treatment method involves the use of beams of radiation to destroy cancer cells.
Your doctor may use radiotherapy for the following purposes:
- To reduce the size of cancer to allow for easy removal (done prior to surgery);
- To destroy any remaining cancer cells and help prevent their recurrence; and
- To mitigate the symptoms of advanced-stage cancers.
Radiotherapy entails extensive planning, which includes radiation simulation and CT scans, to ensure comfort and precision, respectively—only the exact spot in your body receives the radiation.
For cancers of the breast, bowel, prostate, skin, and uterus, radiotherapy effectively reduces the risk of recurrence if done prior to or after surgery.
Like surgery, radiotherapy is only effective at curing early-stage cancers. Most types of radiotherapy aren’t able to control cancer that has already spread to many areas in the body.
- Side Effects
When you talk to your doctor about radiotherapy, make sure to ask about the side effects, which will depend on which area of your body is getting treated.
Some of the side effects of radiotherapy include:
- Gastric problems (e.g., nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea)
- Head and neck problems (e.g., difficulty swallowing, mouth sores, difficulty swallowing, etc.)
- Pelvic problems (e.g., bladder and sexual dysfunction)
Comprehensive Cancer Care in Wooster, Ohio
For unparalleled cancer treatment in Wooster, Ohio, visit us at Wooster Community Hospital. Our dedicated care team has established a solid reputation for helping countless patients in Wooster and neighboring communities live well with and even beat cancer. We take great pleasure in educating and empowering our patients to make the wisest decisions about their care.
To obtain more information about our cancer treatment services or to arrange an appointment, call us at (330) 262-2800.