Frequently asked questions about cancer treatment
Many different forms of cancer can be successfully treated, depending on the stage at which it is diagnosed, the location of the tumor and its size. A variety of people diagnosed with cancer enjoy successful treatment outcomes and continue to lead happy, productive lives.
The three most common forms of cancer treatment are surgery, medicines, like chemotherapy or hormone therapy and radiation therapy. They can be used independently or combined to treat the cancer. The most effective protocol against your cancer depends on the type of cancer you have, its stage, location and size.
Surgery is an effective treatment for some cancers, but not all. Also, cancer patients who are not good surgery candidates are often successfully treated with radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Depending on the severity of your diabetes or heart disease, it may impact your treatment options. Your primary care physician, radiation oncologist or other doctors involved in your care can advise you on the type of treatment that will be most effective with the least risk of complications due to any pre-existing conditions.
Unless you have a current health issue that must be resolved first, you should be able to begin your cancer treatment within several days.
Sometimes previous cancer treatments prohibit a repeat of the same form of therapy. However, even if that is the case, the chances are very high that another type of treatment will be effective against your cancer.
How long cancer treatment takes varies from person to person, as your care plan will be tailored to you. It also depends on the type of treatment you need.
A schedule of radiation treatments may last less than a week, or up to several months. It is usually given daily Monday to Friday, with each daily session typically taking between 10 minutes to half an hour, but it can be more for some very technical treatments, such MRI-guided radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy is given in cycles, ranging from two to six weeks, and each cycle may consist of more than one dose of treatment, depending on the treatment. You usually have several cycles of chemotherapy.
Hormone therapies may be given over several months or even years to shrink a tumor and prevent its growth.
Yes, a doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer is called an oncologist. There are also sub-specialties within oncology. A radiation oncologist specializes in using radiation to treat many different forms of the disease. A medical oncologist specializes in treating cancer with medicine, often in the form of chemotherapy, hormone therapy or immunotherapy. There are also surgical specialists who focus on treating cancer. A urologist can remove tumors of the prostate, bladder, kidneys or testicles and can work with your radiation oncologist and/or medical oncologist to determine the best treatment options for you. A general surgeon can specialize in specific types of cancer, such as breast or abdominal cancer. These surgical specialists will work with your radiation oncologist and/or medical oncologist to develop your personalized treatment plan. Other specialists who treat cancer include colorectal, gynecologic oncology, pulmonary, head and neck, and breast surgeons, as well as dermatologists.