Cancer is one of the biggest health care challenges around the world as 14 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year. There have been dramatic changes over the last few decades regarding the cancer treatment as a result of research and advancements in technology. There cannot be a single cure for cancer as it has many different types. The treatment depends on a number of factors such as the age and health of the patient and the type and stage of the cancer. Most cancer patients get a combination of different treatments while others get a single treatment.
Established Treatments for Cancer
Surgery is one of the oldest treatments for treating cancer. Through surgery the cancer can be completely removed from the body. However, it is only possible if the cancer has not yet spread to other parts of the body. In surgery either the tumor or the whole organ is removed. Improvements are being made every day to make the surgical processes better.
Radiation also known as radio therapy is the killing of cancerous cells by using high doses of radiations on them. However, radiations can also damage healthy tissues. The recent advancements in technology have made it possible to focus the energy beams only on the targeted tissues.
- Hormone Therapy
Hormone therapy is designed to block or reduce the production of hormones in the body to stop the growth of cancer cells. For example, in prostate or breast cancer this treatment is used by reducing testosterone and estrogen levels respectively.
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Newer Treatments for Cancer
It is a type of treatment which is used for cancer which has metastasized. In this treatment, chemicals are used which interfere with the cell division process. However, it also interferes with the division of normal and healthy cells. That’s why it is given in phases so the body has the time to heal in between the intervals.
Immunotherapy refers to the treatment which uses the immune system to fight the cancer. It is a relatively new strategy and it can be both specific and non-specific. It is considered non-specific if it stimulates the whole immune system to fight cancer cells and it is considered specific if it makes the immune system to detect and destroy the cancer cells. The idea of boosting the body’s natural defense system to treat cancer is not new but it was not possible without research and deeply understanding how immune system can work to fight these cells. This approach is quickly progressing in the recent years. Researchers are finding out who will respond best to this new approach of treating cancer.
- Targeted Therapy
Targeted therapy is also a fresh approach for treating cancer and it is a very active research area at present. It works by targeting the changes in cancer cells that help them survive and grow. Most targeted therapies fall under two categories
Small-molecule drugs are used for targets that are inside the cells as they are small and can easily enter them.
Monoclonal antibodies bind to a protein on the outer surface of cancer cells.
- Gene Therapy
It is a very new field and has not yet been able to yield any effective results. It is still in the early stages of research and researchers are finding different ways to use gene therapies.
- Cancer Prevention Vaccines
These vaccines are given to healthy people to prevent them from getting certain types of cancer. The two types which are approved by the FDA are HPV vaccine and Hepatitis B vaccine. Long lasting Human Papillomavirus and Hepatitis B virus can cause certain types of cancers.