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Cancer treatment

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Cancer treatments are different drugs, surgeries, and attempts to rid a human body of cancer. Cancer, a mysterious disease that many have puzzled over for ages, continues to be the main focus of many doctors and scientists around the world. A perfect cure that rids a person’s body of all cancer has not yet been discovered. However, there are several ways that we can try to lessen cancer or even possibly kill it. The five main ways are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. Surgery is when a doctor or machine physically remove cancer from the body. Radiation therapy uses targeted energy to weaken cancer cells and possibly kill them. Chemotherapy is any use of drugs to kill cancer. Targeted therapy is similar to chemotherapy, but it attacks specific molecules. Lastly, immunotherapy uses a person’s immune system to attack the cancer the patient is fighting. There are also several new medical advances that have benefited cancer treatments, such as researches that have resulted in new drugs.

Surgery

Doctors preparing for surgery

One of the main methods of cancer treatment is surgery. This is done by a trained medical surgeon, who removes cancer from the body using small knives to cut through the skin, muscle, and sometimes bone. There are different types of surgery that do not require cuts to be made in the skin, Cryosurgery is one of them. In this procedure, liquid nitrogen or argon gas is used to destroy cancer tissues. Another noninvasive surgery is Hyperthermia, which is when large amounts of heat are used to kill cancer cells. Photodynamic therapy is when drugs are used, and lasers are also used to kill cancer cells.

There are two main types of surgery. The first is open surgery, in which a cut is made in the skin and the tumor is removed, as well as some surrounding tissue and lymph nodes. The second is minimally invasive surgery. In this type of surgery, a very small cut is made, and a thin tube is pushed through the skin. It has a camera on the end that allows the surgeon to see where the cancer is, and then it is removed carefully. The main risks of surgery are pain and possible infection. Surgery is expensive, but a promising way of removing cancerous tissue. [1]

Radiation Therapy

A patient being treated for cancer under a radiation therapy machine

Radiation therapy uses energy that’s targeted to kill cancer cells. Its main job is to shrink tumors and lesson certain cancer symptoms. There are three types of radiation cancer. The first is External Beam Radiation Therapy, which uses a machine that is placed directly outside the body and transmits inside the body. The second is Internal Radiation therapy, which is when radioactive material is placed inside the body near a tumor. Lastly, there is Systemic Radiation Therapy. For this therapy, a radioactive substance is swallowed or injected into the patient. There are some side effects like nausea, skin changes, and fatigue. [2]

Chemotherapy

Woman being treated for cancer with Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. There are three goals of chemotherapy. The first is to cure. The hope of chemotherapy is to rid the body of all cancer. If it cannot be cured, then the hope is to control. To control cancer means that the person can live longer and feel better. The cancer might seem to go away, but then return. This might happen several times, but thankfully cancer can be controlled again. The last goal of chemotherapy is palliation. This means that it is sometimes used to ease the symptoms of cancer if the cancer cells cannot be killed. [3]

Targeted Therapy

Mechanism of the drug imatinib, a type of targeted therapy

Targeted therapies are similar to chemotherapy, but differ in several ways. Targeted therapy is the use of drugs that target specific molecules, and block the growth and spread of cancer cells. There are several reasons why targeted therapy is different than chemotherapy. The first has already been mentioned, which is the fact that they target specific molecules rather than groups of cancerous cells, which is what chemotherapy does. Targeted therapies are also cytostatic, which means that they block tumor cell proliferation. Chemotherapy is different because it is cytotoxic, which means that they kill tumor cells. Targeted therapy is a type of medicine that uses the knowledge of a person’s genes and proteins, and a huge part of anticancer drug development. [4]

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses a person’s immune system to fight cancer. This is done in two ways. The first is when a person’s immune system is stimulated so it will work harder to fight cancer. The second is giving the person’s immune system new components that are usually man-made proteins. Immunotherapy works better on certain cancers than others. There are three main types of immunotherapy. The first is Monoclonal antibodies, which are man-made proteins for the immune system. This is a very beneficial way of treating cancer because it can be used to attack very specific cancer types. The second type is immune checkpoint inhibitors, which are drugs that stimulate the immune system and help it to target cancer cells. The third is cancer vaccines. These are drugs that are put into the body that start an immune system response to certain cancer cells. There are several other immunotherapies, but they all have a similar job, which is to use the immune system to kill cancer in a person’s body. [5]

New Treatments

There have been several new medical advances involving cancer in this century. In 2001, scientists discovered that the drug Imatinib Mesylate can be used to fight leukemia and can treat gastrointestinal stromal tumors. Two years later it was discovered that the drug Finasteride could be used to help fight men’s prostate cancer because it reduces the production of male hormones. In 2006 scientists found that the vaccine Gardasil can be used to protect against the two types of HPV that cause cancer. In 2010 the first human cancer treatment vaccine was approved by the FDA. In 2012 it was proved that screening people 55 years and older can help reduce colorectal cancer symptoms. In 2014 scientists analyzed DNA in over 30 different types of cancer and find that gastric cancer is actually four diseases in one. All of these discoveries and advances have led to the knowledge we have about cancer today and the continued search for a cure. [6]

See Cancers

References

  1. NIH. Surgery National Cancer Institute. Accessed October 22, 2017.
  2. Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Radiation therapy Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Accessed October 22, 2017.
  3. American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team. How Is Chemotherapy Used to Treat Cancer? 'American Cancer Society. Accessed October 22, 2017.
  4. National Cancer Institute. Targeted Cancer Therapies National Cancer Institute. Accessed October 22, 2017.
  5. American Cancer Society. What is cancer Immunotherapy? American Cancer Society. Accessed October 22, 2017.
  6. NIH. Milestones in Cancer Research and Discovery National Cancer Institute. Accessed October 22, 2017.