Conquering Cancer: How to Choose the Best Treatment
A cancer diagnosis is overwhelming in and of itself but even more daunting can be deciding on the appropriate treatment options to pursue. Although most people automatically think of radiation or chemotherapy, it is important to consider all possible options for fighting cancer.
Below is a breakdown of 4 common methods of treatment, what they involve, Pros and Cons, and why these approaches work against cancer.
Radiation therapy utilizes radiation – Xrays, gamma rays, and charged particles – to eliminate cancer cells and decrease the size of tumors. The radiation may be delivered outside the body through a machine or systemically through a radioactive substance injected in the blood.
Radiation works by damaging the DNA of cancer cells which in turn causes them to die. Below is a list of Pros, Cons, and side effects regarding radiation therapy.
- Effective treatment for destroying cancer cells
- May slow down the growth of cancer
- Can help control symptoms and relieve pain associated with advanced cancer
- Treatments are usually short (around a half an hour) and do not require a stay in the hospital
- Along with killing cancer cells, radiation can also kill normal cells
- Skin irritation or damage in areas exposed to radiation
- Memory loss
- Hair loss
Chemotherapy utilizes specific drugs to kill off cancer cells and discourage their growth. Following is a list of Pros, Cons, and side effects of chemotherapy as a cancer treatment.
- Ability to shrink tumors
- Decrease the risk of another occurance
- Destroys cancer cells
- Can cure cancer in some cases
- Healthy cells may experience damage
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood disorders
- Nervous system effects
- Appetite and memory changes
- Hair loss
Surgery is the longest used type of cancer treatment. It is used to diagnose – through a biopsy – and treat cancer by removing tumors as well as the surrounding tissue.
- May be combined with other treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy
- Can be used preventatively
- Minimally invasive surgery is an option in some cases
- Part of a tumor or cancer cells may be left behind
- Some surgeries can be invasive and require significant recovery time
Alternative therapies, known as CAM – complementary and alternative medicine – are often used in conjunction with traditional cancer treatments to help manage symptoms and increase quality of life. Examples of CAM include acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, and the use of specific herbal medicines. Some Pros and Cons of CAM include:
- May help ease side effects from other cancer treatments
- Eases worries and stresses related to cancer and typical treatments
- Create a sense of control over cancer
- Limited scientific research
- May not work for everyone
Overall, conquering cancer is possible with help from your doctor and the right treatments. Use the list above to help guide you in choosing the best treatment route for your situation.