Cancer treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy or a combination of these therapies.
Radiation Therapy is often done on an outpatient basis. A precisely measured dose of radiation is directed to a tumor with minimum exposure to surrounding tissue. Current radiation therapy methods cause much less damage to healthy tissue than methods previously used. Typical side effects may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and depression.
Chemotherapy, the use of drugs or chemicals given individually or in combination, is administered in precisely measured doses to target rapidly dividing cancer cells. It is a particularly effective treatment for leukemia and many metastatic cancers and may be used in combination with other forms of treatment. Expected side effects include nausea, vomiting, weakness and diarrhea. Hair loss and decreased sex drive, usually temporarily, may also occur.
Immunotherapy or biological response modifiers may be used as an adjunct therapy. These substances, such as Interleukin-2 or Interferon, are used to stimulate the body’s own immune system to interfere with cancer cell growth, help healthy immune cells control cancer and can help repair normal cells damaged by other cancer treatment. Patients may encounter side effects during treatment including flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, muscle or joint aches), loss of appetite and fatigue.