What are the different types of cancer treatment?

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There are different types of treatments for cancer. The treatment used depends on the type of cancer and where it is in the body. Surgery can be used to cut out some cancers. Other treatments destroy cancer cells. For example, chemotherapy, or chemo for short, uses medicine to destroy cancer cells. Radiotherapy uses powerful energy beams to kill cancer cells. Immunotherapy helps the immune system fight cancer cells. Sometimes a combination of treatments is used.

The types of treatment used most often to treat cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell transplantation. Doctors use these treatments to destroy cancer cells. Depending on the type of cancer, children may have one kind of treatment or a combination of treatments. Most children receive a combination of treatments, called combination therapy.

Treatments for cancer often cause unwanted or unpleasant side effects such as nausea, hair loss and diarrhea. Side effects occur because cancer treatment that kills cancer cells can hurt some normal cells, too. As your child begins treatment, you may want to keep the following in mind.

The kinds of side effects and how bad they will be depend on the kind of drug, the dosage and the way your child's body reacts. The doctor plans treatment so that your child has as few side effects as possible. The doctor and treatment team have ways to lessen your child's side effects. Talk with them about things that can be done before, during and after treatment to make your child comfortable. Lowering the treatment dosage slightly to eliminate unpleasant side effects usually will not make the treatment less able to destroy cancer cells or hurt your child's chances of recovery. Most side effects go away soon after treatment ends.

Remember that not every child gets every side effect, and some children get few, if any. Also, how serious the side effects are varies from child to child, even among children who are receiving the same treatment. The doctor or treatment team can tell you which, if any, side effects your child is likely to have and how to handle them. If you know what side effects can occur, you can recognize them early.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Morteza Dowlatshahi, MD
Radiation Oncologist

When treating cancer patients, all types of treatment might be used, says Morteza Dowlatshahi, MD, from Regional Medical Center of San Jose. Consult your doctor and specialists to find out what treatment is right for you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.