What Is Cancer?

Nobody likes cancer. It’s a disease that tries to steal your body away from you, by reprogramming your cells and attacking your immune system.

Almost every cell in any organ or area of the body has the possibility of becoming cancerous, given the wrong conditions or circumstances. Some cases are influenced by things we have some control over, like poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, or tanning. Other cases can arise from things we can’t do much about, like your family history, preexisting conditions/diseases or unsafe living and working conditions.

If allowed to grow and develop unchecked, cancer can jump from one area of the body to another – going “metastatic.” However, cancer is no longer a death sentence. We are getting better and better at treating it.

The Treatment Landscape

Cancer isn’t one simple disease: the term “cancer” actually refers to many different conditions (carcinoma, lymphoma, melanoma, etc.) Because of this, there are many different methods for treating cancers, depending on both the type of disease and the patient.

Treatments are always improving. As we gain a better understanding of how cancers work, we can develop new ways to employ science and medicine to combat the disease. It has been suggested that we are on the verge of major breakthroughs in the fight against cancer. During this important time, staying informed about new treatments and advancements can make a world of difference. It can save lives.

A brief overview of the different types of cancer treatment are outlined below. This is meant to give a basic introduction to various methods currently being used, as well as what methods are being developed by researchers right now.You and your loved ones deserve to have the best information available, so that you can make well thought-out, informed decisions, both now and in the future.

TRADITIONAL TREATMENTS

Surgery

Surgery can be an effective way to diagnose, treat or prevent many kinds of cancers. If diagnosed early enough, surgery can completely remove a number of early-stage diseases.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy blasts tissue with high-energy radiation. This destroys cancer cells, by severely damaging their DNA.

Chemotherapy

‘Chemo’ involves using toxic drugs and chemicals that are designed to kill cancer cells. Commonly observed side effects – like the loss of hair- are due largely in part to the design of these treatments.

NEW & EMERGING TREATMENTS

Immunotherapy

These emerging therapies seek to harness the power of the immune system to target and destroy cancer cells. They are designed to specifically kill cancer cells, while minimizing damage to the rest of your body. It is estimated that immunotherapy will be the most widely used type of treatment for up to 60% of cancers, over the next 10 years. Today, it is used less than 3% of the time (Citi Research).

Targeted Therapies

Targeted therapies use drugs like antibodies and inhibitors to disrupt cancer cells and stop them from growing and spreading. This new and growing field is the result of modern advancements in molecular biology and cancer drug development.

Transplantation

Bone marrow or stem cell transplants are often used after treatment, in order to help your body recover. They can also be used to prepare patients for future treatments. Visit bethematch.org, to learn more and to join the bone marrow registry. You could help save someone’s life.

OTHER APPROACHES

Pro-Drug Therapies

The types of drugs aren’t activated until your body or an outside source turns them on. Many need to be broken down by your body, before they start working. One example is photodynamic therapy (PDT), which is activated by certain types of light.

Lasers

Lasers amplify light to create a powerful beam of energy. They are often used along with other therapies like chemo and radiation and are able to precisely cut or destroy tumors and precancerous growths.

Hyperthermia

Also called thermal therapy or thermotherapy, this treatment involves exposing cancer to very high temperatures. Lasers that can shoot infrared beams are often used in this type of treatment .