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Cancer Treatments

Cancer is very difficult to treat. Treatment plans involve consideration of many variables, including cancer type, stage of disease, and the general condition of the patient. The objective may be to cure the cancer completely, to control the spread of cancer, or to relieve the patient's symptoms. The treatment methods of the most common cancers:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Hormonal Therapy
  • Targeted Therapy


Surgery may be performed as a tool to help diagnose cancer or as a treatment method. A common form of diagnostic surgery is a biopsy, where the doctor takes a sample of tissue from the afflicted area and runs tests to determine if it is cancerous or not.

Surgery for cancer treatment involves the excision of cancerous cells and some of the adjacent tissues (to ensure that all of the cancer is removed). In addition to removing the cancer, your doctor is able to gather information during the surgery about your condition that can serve as an aid for evaluating further treatment options and chances of recurrence.


Chemotherapy is the use of medicines to destroy cancerous cells. The drugs are administered orally or through an IV injection. They then circulate in the bloodstream with the goal of reaching any parts of the body where the cancer may have spread.

More than half of all cancer patients receive chemotherapy treatment. Although there may be harsh side effects associated with this treatment, recent advances in medicine have allowed physicians to control and even prevent some of them, allowing patients to maintain a higher quality of life throughout treatment.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses focused, high-energy radiation to damage or kill cancer cells and to inhibit further growth of the cancer. Because radiation treatment is administered locally to the site, it is most useful for cancer that has not spread throughout the body.

Radiation can be applied externally and internally. External radiation is delivered via a machine that concentrates high-energy rays on the afflicted area. Internal radiation therapy, also called seed therapy or brachytherapy, involves the surgical implantation of a radioactive material close to the cancer.

Hormonal Therapy

Hormonal therapy is used when the cancer's growth is spurred by the absorption of naturally occurring hormones in the body. These cancers affect hormone-sensitive tissues such as the prostate or the breasts. In these cases, your doctor may decide to limit or block hormone production by administering certain drugs, or he or she may opt for removing the organs that product the hormone feeding the cancer. Like chemotherapy, hormone therapy is effective against cancers that have spread throughout the body.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapies are intended to target only the cancer cells while limiting damage to the surrounding normal cells. Conventional cancer therapies are unable to distinguish between cancerous cells and healthy cells. These side effects can be severe, significantly reducing the patient's quality of life and compromising their ability to continue with treatment. The intention of targeted therapies is to increase the effectiveness of cancer therapy and reduce the negative side effects often associated with whole-body treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Mavis Cabral Medical Centre, P. O. Box 2259, St. John's, Antigua, West Indies
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