So you have been told you have cancer. You are in for a heavy discussion with your doctor about the range of options you might have going forward. When I was young it was only talked about in hushed terms, ” shhh she has the big C” Now it seems every second person is being touched by Cancer. Now we call it what it is in all it’s various forms and speak openly about it.
Years ago it was a death sentence for sure but now with modern medicines they can cure some cancers completely. It is not the end of the road for you. But just like there are many different forms of cancer in all it’s insidious and destructive invasions of the human body, there are equally as many different treatments.
Once you receive your diagnosis you have to make a big decision on which treatment you will take for your particular cancer.
Since I am not a doctor and I will not pretend to be I thought I would do some research to find out what treatments the medical profession offers and then look at what alternatives there are. I will list the various forms of treatment available to you and their possible side effects, but first we need to define cancer itself.
What is Cancer?
In a normal and healthy person the body which is made up of millions and millions of cells is constantly renewing itself. When a cell dies it is naturally replaced. However when a persons’ cells begin to behave differently by beginning to divide and multiply and spread through various parts of the body, they will be diagnosed as having some form of cancer depending on where it is in the body. Cancer can strike any person in any part of the body and at any age. When this begins to happen the old cells do not die and become replaced with new healthy cells but instead the dead cells become part of an ever growing tumor. If untreated the tumors will continue their invasion and grow into bigger solid masses within the body, then causing many other health issues.
The diagram below shows the difference between normal cells and cancer cells in a simplified way.
The other problem is that as they grow they can shed one of these abnormal cells which will travel via the blood stream to other parts of the body thereby causing new tumors to be established as they settle in destroying the healthy cells around them. Normally a healthy immune system will fight off and destroy these nasty little cancer cells but some cancer cells have been able to trick the immune system and continue to multiply undetected.
It should be noted that cancers in the blood do not form tumors but continue on their merry way destroying healthy cells in the blood so that the persons’ health becomes seriously compromised.
This is another very good image showing how cancer cells form and how they can be identified.
Medical Options to Overthrow Cancer
Now that we have a basic understanding of what cancer is we need to find ways to reverse it’s destructive properties.
I am speaking of cancer as an enemy that we need to defeat and with the right course of action we can fight and win over this dreadful invasive enemy.
Your meeting with your doctor has been scheduled to work out the best strategy for your particular type of cancer.
He will explain to you the options you have available within the approved medical field. You need to listen to these, be as informed as you can, take note of what he says then go and ask more questions before accepting any one of them for your treatment.
The artillery he will offer you will be one of the following.
You will already have had a little surgery when the doctor would have taken a small sample of the tumor to diagnose it’s severity. This is called a biopsy and it is from the results of this biopsy they will explain to you the chances thy feel they have of completely removing the cancer through surgical means. There is always some degree of risk with any form of surgery but if the doctor feels he can get all of the tumor with surgery it is often a good and decisive option. Surgery also offers the doctor an opportunity to determine how far the cancer has spread and whether follow up treatments will be needed.
Chemotherapy is another option the doctor will present you with. This will be a course of drugs designed to attack and kill the cancer cells. The problem is those same drugs will often attack and kill any cells in it’s way, leaving you very susceptible to outside infection as your own immune system becomes compromised. For this reason you have to avoid contact with certain illnesses or infections during your chemotherapy treatment.
Surgery will remove a tumor in an area of the body but chemo will chase those runaway invasive cells throughout the body. Different drugs will be selected depending on the type of cancer, where it is located and the overall ability of the patient to cope with them. You will need to listen very carefully to the advice of your doctor if you need to choose this option.
3. Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is one of the most common ways of attacking cancer cells but it usually only works effectively if the cancer can be confined to a particular area of the body. It is designed to kill off cancer cells with minimal effect on the surrounding healthy cells. It is usually chosen to treat early stage cancers before they have had any chance to spread throughout the body and in some cases will completely kill off the cancer with no further treatment being necessary. Sometimes it may have to be used alongside or in conjunction with other treatments such as the surgery or chemo. It is vital to talk to your doctor and understand fully the progress of the treatments and the possible side effects.
Radiation treatment for some people can cause nasty burns, just as some chemo can have many side effects too. You need to be aware of and weigh up the risks of each and determine in consultation with your doctor which is best for you given your type of cancer, your age and physical health.
Targeted therapy is a relatively new treatment where they use specific drugs to attack certain cancer cells without attacking or harming the good cells around them.
They can alter the gene or DNA of the cancer cells which cause them to divide and multiply. They can bring about certain changes in the cancer cells which cause them to die, and they can cause the cancer cells to be starved of proteins so they can no longer grow as they would have. They can also stimulate the patients immune system to kill the cancer cells off.
Immunotherapy is a method of encouraging the patients own immune system to fight off the cancer cells by stimulating it with specific man made immune system proteins. Immunotherapy is still being worked on and improved but basically it’s about artificially encouraging the bodies own immune system to work harder and more effectively by giving it a boost. A healthy immune system will normally fight off cancer cells by itself but sometimes it doesn’t recognize the invaders and can be helped with immunotherapy. Again it may not be effective in fighting all types of cancer so listen and do your own research.
Alternative therapies for Cancer Treatment
There are many ways of helping the body deal with cancer In the next post we will look at some of the more overlooked but also very effective ways of fighting cancer. These will include, diet, herbal, and other natural healing methods. If you have found anything helpful in this article then please leave a comment. It would be especially good to hear from some doctors who specialize in treating cancer .