What are the goals of cancer treatment?
The main goal of cancer treatment is to get rid of your cancer. This can happen with one type of treatment (such as surgery) or a mix of treatments, such as surgery Surgery for Cancer Cancer surgery is when doctors operate to remove cancerous tumors. Usually, doctors operate only when: The cancer hasn't spread (metastasized) anywhere Your body is strong enough to go through... read more and chemotherapy Chemotherapy Chemotherapy is a drug that destroys cancer cells. Chemotherapy works by shutting down cell growth. But since all cells in the body grow, chemotherapy drugs also destroy some normal cells and... read more (medicine that destroys cancer cells) and radiation therapy Radiation Therapy for Cancer Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses beams of radiation to destroy cancer cells and shrink cancer tumors. Doctors use radiation to treat many types of cancer, including head, neck... read more .
If it isn’t possible to remove your cancer, doctors will try to shrink it, make you more comfortable, and lessen your symptoms to help you feel better.
Treating cancer is complex, and doctors and other healthcare professionals work together as a team. Your team may include primary care doctors, specialists, surgeons, physician assistants, radiation therapists, nurses, social workers, and pharmacists.
Your doctors will choose the type of treatment (called a treatment protocol) that’s best for your cancer.
How do doctors choose the right treatment for your cancer?
Doctors decide on the best treatment for your cancer based on:
The chance of a cure (your cancer goes away and doesn’t come back)
The chance of the longest, most comfortable life
How well the treatment will lessen your symptoms
Side effects of treatment
Your wishes for treatment
Talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of different treatments.
Treatment protocols are standard methods developed by doctors to treat certain types of cancer. These protocols have been tested carefully in research studies called clinical trials. In clinical trials, doctors compare new drugs and treatments with standard treatments to help tell whether the new treatments work better. Many people with cancer are offered the chance to be in a clinical trial. Talk with your doctor about the advantages and disadvantages of being in a trial.
How do doctors tell if the treatment is working?
Doctors will check to see how well your treatment is working to fight cancer. During your treatment, doctors may:
Do scans (such as CT [computed tomography] scans Computed Tomography A CT scan uses a large machine shaped like a large donut to take x-rays from many angles. A computer then takes the x-rays and creates many detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Each... read more ) to see if your tumors have shrunk
Do blood tests to check your levels of tumor antigens (called tumor markers for certain cancers) in your blood
If treatment works on your cancer, you may have:
Remission—your cancer disappears completely
A partial response—your tumor shrinks to less than half its previous size, which can give you fewer symptoms and lengthen your life
Relapse—your cancer completely disappears but returns later