The Different Modalities of Cancer

Anxiety, fear, and feeling overwhelmed are some of the most natural sentiments that most people undergo following a cancer diagnosis. Even before one has fully understood their prognosis, they may feel a sudden need and urge to begin the treatment plan and get affairs in order. Educating yourself about the different lines of treatments becomes imperative if one hopes to tread this journey as smoothly as possible. Learning about the  different modalities of cancer then becomes highly important, as such knowledge can help a patient make smart decisions about what treatment they should opt for. 

Cancers can either be aggressive or indolent and some show more prevalence in certain age groups. Due to such differences, it really doesn’t make sense to treat this deadly disease with just one line of treatment. Several factors, such as the size of the cancer, whether it has achieved metastasis or not, the stage of the cancer and the general health of the patient, contribute in deciding what line of treatment would be most suitable for a person. 

Treatment Modalities of Cancer

1. Surgery 

This is usually the first line of treatment that oncologists prefer when it comes to solid tumors. Certain factors that dictate whether a patient should go for surgery or not include the size of the tumor, type of cancer, location and the overall health of the patient. Surgery can also be useful in alleviating symptoms of pain or obstruction caused by any other adjacent organ. When it comes to certain cancers, such as head and neck cancers or breast cancer, after the tumor resection surgery, reconstruction surgery may also be performed. The primary aim of such a surgery is to try and restore the morphology of the body that may have been lost either partially or completely due to the tumor resection procedure. Sometimes surgery can be utilized to serve the purpose of palliative care by alleviating pain and enhancing the quality of life of a patient and sometimes such a procedure can take care of multiple goals. In some other cases, multiple operations may become necessary over a period of time.

2. Radiation Therapy 

In this line of treatment, high-energy x-rays, gamma rays, or electron beams are used to get rid of the cancer cells in the body. One may be asked to avail radiation therapy either before or after chemotherapy or surgery. Like surgery, it can also serve a palliative purpose since it may be utilized to alleviate pain caused by the tumor lesions. The success of radiation therapy may be dependent on several factors, such as the duration, mode of radiation delivered, and overall dose. Along with this, the molecular properties of the tumor itself become significant in order to decide whether one will see any signs of improvement or not. Radiation therapy can have severe side effects, and usually, to prevent a patient from suffering the brunt of these side effects, professionals usually offer radiation therapy in small doses called fractions, which are spread across weeks. Common side effects that accompany radiation therapy include blurry vision, fatigue, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and headaches.

3. Chemotherapy 

Chemo uses a wide variety of therapeutic drugs to get rid of the cancer cells in the body. There are various modes through which these drugs can be administered into the body. Depending on the case, these drugs can be delivered through multiple modes, such as intravenously, intramuscularly, and intrathecally. One may receive chemotherapy in combination with surgery and radiation. Since chemotherapy also affects healthy cancer cells, similar to radiation, it can also have severe side effects. These side effects vary and depend on certain factors, such as the type of drug, dosage, duration, and age of the patient. Some of the most common side effects that usually accompany chemotherapy include nausea, hair loss, vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, mouth sores and fatigue.

4. Immunotherapy 

Unlike radiation therapy and chemotherapy, which target both healthy and malignant cancer cells, immunotherapy has negligible to manageable side effects as it primarily aims at boosting the immune responses of the body. Immunotherapy is the new and exciting line of treatment in the fight against cancer. Through stimulating and boosting the immune system to identify and ward off cancer cells, immunotherapy can provide its patients with long-term protection from cancer. It also significantly improves survival rates and reduces the possibility of relapse in the future. The string of benefits that it offers to patients, both mentally and physically, is difficult to ignore, which makes it an important line of research in the fight against cancer. The immune system of the body is responsible for protecting us from harmful pathogens, although when it comes to cancer cells, the immune system usually fails to recognise them, due to which these cancer cells spread to various parts of the body. Immunotherapy, as a form of treatment, primarily uses materials made in the body or in the lab to boost and restore an individual’s immune system. The immune system is a cluster of organs, tissues, and cells that operate in tandem to protect the body from infections or foreign substances. Since cancer cells usually evade the body’s immune system, immunotherapy aims to bring attention to these cancer cells so that the immune system can take care of the cancer in the body. There are various subsets of immunotherapy, and depending on the patient’s case, they can be used in combination with the other three modalities. 

Final Note 

Cancer is no longer the be-all-end-all, and it is important that we appraise it properly. With that being said, the various forms of treatment have proven their efficacy in treating various types of cancer. Consult your oncologist and communicate effectively with them about your needs so that they can devise the best treatment plan for you.


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