Treatments for cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, as well as newer techniques such as interventional radiology and immunotherapy. Find basic information about cancer treatment and learn more about what to expect as a Currae patient or caregiver.
Common Cancer Treatment Options
Blood & Marrow Stem Cell Transplantation
In a stem cell transplant, also called a bone marrow transplant, people are given new blood-forming stem cells. These stem cells are made in the bone marrow and develop into all the different kind of blood cells in the body. In a transplant, the stem cells are added into the bloodstream to replace the person’s unhealthy blood stem cells.
This procedure can be an effective form of treatment for certain kinds of cancer, especially blood cancers. These cancers include leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. A stem cell transplant may also be used to treat certain genetic diseases and some types of blood diseases that are not cancer.
Who Can Have a Stem Cell Transplant?
Transplantation can be hard for patients and their caregivers. This is because the treatment used to get people ready for a transplant has many side effects. These side effects include things like nausea, diarrhea, mouth sores, and fatigue.
In addition, for a long time after a transplant the immune systems is suppressed. This means that it stops working as well as it normally does. During that period, people are at risk for many types of infections.
We can now give transplants to people who may not have been able to have them in the past. This includes older patients and those who have other medical conditions. But because the treatment is still difficult, some people will not be able to have a stem cell transplant.
Several recent advances have made bone marrow transplantation a safe option for more patients.
Our transplant doctors, highly skilled nurses, and nurse practitioners work with a team of other experts. This group includes immunologists, gastroenterologists, kidney specialists, radiologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. We provide each person who needs a transplant with the best care possible.
People who have transplants at currae are cared for by specialists who are experts in this procedure and its possible complications. As our patient, you will have access to the leading-edge methods created by our doctors and the investigators in our labs. You will also have access to a variety of supportive care services. These services can improve your quality of life both during and after treatment.
Chemotherapy is a treatment approach that uses potent drugs to destroy cancer cells or to stop or slow their growth. It’s sometimes called systemic therapy because these drugs circulate throughout the body. Depending on various factors, chemotherapy can cure or control your cancer or help ease symptoms you may be having.
It’s very important to us to preserve your quality of life while you’re in our care. Our doctors and nurses carefully monitor you during and after your treatment.
Because it often works by attacking rapidly dividing cells, chemotherapy can harm healthy cells, such as those that make blood cells or cause your hair to grow, as well as cancerous ones. Damage to healthy cells may cause you to experience side effects during or after your treatment, or both. However, your care team can suggest strategies to minimize or manage those symptoms or adjust the drug or your dosage as necessary. We’re also working to develop new drug-based treatments that not only work better but also have fewer side effects.
Some new alternatives to traditional chemotherapy drugs are now available that more precisely target cancer cells and leave normal cells alone. For example, several immunotherapies and targeted therapies that we and other cancer experts have developed may result in fewer or different side effects.
How Chemotherapy Can Help You
If chemotherapy is a part of your treatment plan, your care team will explain why it’s a good choice for you. For cancers that affect the blood or the lymph system, including leukemia and lymphoma, chemotherapy may be the only treatment option that makes sense. Other reasons for including chemotherapy in your treatment plan include:
- destroying any cancer cells that might be left in your body after radiation or surgery (called adjuvant treatment)
- shrinking tumors before surgery or radiation therapy (called neoadjuvant treatment)
- treating cancer that’s come back (recurred) or spread (metastasized) to other parts of your body
- boosting the effect of radiation therapy
- easing or lessening the intensity of your cancer symptoms by shrinking tumors that are pushing against or putting pressure on parts of your body
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Ways to Receive Chemotherapy
We give chemotherapy to patients in several ways. These include:
- intravenously (IV), with the drug delivered into your vein through a thin tube called a catheter
- orally in the form of tablets, pills, or capsules that you swallow
- by injection with a shot in a muscle or below your skin
- topically in the form of a cream that you apply to your skin
- intrahepatically, with the drug delivered into the hepatic artery, which sends blood directly into the liver
- by intraperitoneal injection into the abdominal cavity
- intrathecally, with the drug delivered into the fluid-filled space between the thin layers of tissue that cover the brain and spinal cord
If you’re receiving chemotherapy intravenously, your doctor may recommend inserting a special device called a port (like an artificial vein) into your chest wall under the skin. It can safely remain in place long-term if needed. If your care team recommends using a port to deliver your treatment, your doctor will explain why it would be beneficial for you, how and where it will be placed, how to care for it, how long you might need it, how it’s removed, and any potential risks involved. We’ll answer all your questions to help you make an informed decision.
Radiation therapy can destroy tumors and/or prevent them from returning. It can be used by itself as the only treatment or in combination with surgery, chemotherapy, or both. Learn more about the types of radiation therapy and how it’s used at Currae.
Radiation therapy uses precisely focused, high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. It is usually given from a machine outside the body (called external-beam radiation therapy), most often in the form of x-rays but sometimes as protons or other types of energy. Radiation therapy can also be delivered internally by placing radioactive material in the body near tumors (called brachytherapy).
How It’s Used
Radiation therapy can destroy tumors and/or prevent them from returning. It can be used by itself as the only treatment or in combination with surgery, chemotherapy, or both. Sometimes radiation is used to shrink a tumor before surgery (neoadjuvant therapy) or given after surgery to halt the growth of remaining cancer cells (adjuvant therapy). Radiation may also be combined with chemotherapy (chemoradiation) to destroy cancer cells.
In people with advanced cancer, radiation may be used to reduce suffering brought on by the disease. This may involve tumors that are causing pain or interfering with the ability to eat and drink.
Types of Radiation Therapy
Our doctors deliver radiation therapy in a variety of forms depending on the type of cancer, the location of the tumor, and whether it has spread.
External-beam radiation therapy is the most common form of the treatment. It is applied to the body by a machine, most often in the form of x-rays but sometimes as charged particles called protons or other types of energy.
Types of external-beam radiation therapy include image-guided radiation therapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy, stereotactic body radiation therapy, hypofractionated radiation therapy, and proton therapy.
Intraoperative Radiation Therapy
Image-Guided Radiation Therapy
Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy
Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy
Hypofractionated Radiation Therapy
Proton TherapyInternal Radiation Therapy (Brachytherapy)
Palliative Radiation Therapy
Surgery remains the most direct approach for treating cancer. For some people, surgery is all that’s needed to cure the disease. Others may need additional treatment with radiation, chemotherapy, or other therapies before, during, or after the operation.
In cancer surgery, the stakes are especially high. Having the right procedure up front means that your cancer is less likely to come back. It also reduces your risk for serious complications that can impair your health and normal bodily functions.
Currae surgeons are committed to finding new ways to improve outcomes for our patients.
What advantages can Currae surgeons offer you or your loved one? First and foremost, our doctors are super-specialized experts not only in surgical techniques to remove cancer but also in the disease itself. Their sole focus is on cancer, and they care deeply about finding better ways to treat and cure it. In fact, surgeons from all over the world come to Currae to learn new techniques.
Even though other surgeons may be equally adept at performing an operation, surgeons at currae — working closely with our pathologists, medical oncologists, and many other cancer experts — have the depth of knowledge to perform it at the right time, in the right way, and in combination with the right additional therapies. They’re committed to helping you understand all your options, including when it’s feasible to postpone surgery and closely monitor your cancer instead, using an approach called active surveillance.
Active surveillance, sometimes called watchful waiting, has been made possible through advances in cancer science that are allowing doctors to understand when a cancer will progress slowly and is not a threat to your health. This approach may allow you to delay treatment — and avoid its potential risks and side effects — until symptoms appear or there’s a change in the aggressiveness of your disease. It’s a proven method our surgeons pioneered very successfully here with prostate cancer and that we’re increasingly using for thyroid, kidney, and other cancers.
Our Approach to Surgery
Our goal with surgery is to remove as much of the cancer as we can — all of it, if possible. We’re experienced in effectively removing common tumors as well as very complicated growths in hard-to-reach or delicate parts of the body. Our skilled surgeons work as a team with our other highly trained experts, such as anesthesiologists and nurses, who can make a crucial difference in how well you do during and after surgery.
If you’re a candidate for surgery, we’ll recommend the approach that gives you not only the best chance for survival but also the best quality of life possible. A few of the factors we take into consideration include the following:
We give chemotherapy to patients in several ways. These include:
- the type of cancer you have (for example, solid tumors often can be surgically removed, while blood cancers can’t)
- where in your body the cancer is located and how we might best reach it to remove it
- the extent of the cancer, and whether it has spread (metastasized) to nearby tissue
- how quickly the cancer is growing
- other health conditions that may affect how you tolerate and recover from surgery
For some patients, we may recommend a minimal-access operation (also called a minimally invasive operation), common types of which include robotic surgery and laparoscopic surgery. During a minimal-access procedure, your surgeon performs the same operation he or she would have otherwise done with the traditional, open approach but using special instruments and scopes that require several smaller incisions instead of one larger one.
Our surgeons are highly skilled in these techniques, as well as in knowing when such an approach might be right for you. The key consideration on our minds is always which technique is best for curing your cancer and giving you a normal life afterward. Although a minimally invasive approach can be a good option for many people, it’s not right for everyone.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend radiation, chemotherapy, or other treatments in addition to surgery. These therapies can help shrink the cancer before surgery so it’s easier to remove, or after surgery to kill any stray cancer cells. Chemotherapy or radiation during your operation may also be an option.
Intraoperative radiation therapy involves the delivery of high doses of radiation during surgery to remove a tumor. One approach uses a device called a linear accelerator to deliver a concentrated beam of radiation where cancer cells could still be lurking. In another technique called brachytherapy, tiny radioactive seeds are implanted in or near the tumor.