Your Cancer Treatment
At the Holzer Center for Cancer Care (HCCC), we believe an informed patient is a better patient. We will help you understand the different treatment processes so that together we can make the best decisions specifically for you.
There are five main goals for the treatment of Cancer:
- Cure the cancer.
- Keep cancer from spreading.
- Slow cancer’s growth.
- Eliminate cancer cells.
- Relieve symptoms caused by cancer.
- Follow Up Care
Follow up care is very important. No matter the type of cancer you may be battling, when chemotherapy ends it is necessary to continue with regular check ups in order to monitor your progress and give you another opportunity to ask questions about anything that you may be noticing. Follow up sessions allow you to ask questions such as: “Can I go back to eating what I want? May I resume my normal activities?
What is Chemotherapy?
Your physician may decide that chemotherapy, the use of drugs, is the best way to treat your cancer. Chemotherapy treats the entire body instead of specific areas. Drugs are usually administered intravenously (IV), but may also be taken orally, as a pill, or injected, as a shot. Chemotherapy and radiation are often used together.
A single chemo drug can be used to treat cancer, but for the most part, the drugs work better when used together. A Medical Oncologist will determine the drug or combination of drugs, how the drugs will be given, and how long treatment will be delivered. Treatments may be daily, weekly, or monthly depending on the type of cancer, the goals of the treatment, the drugs being used, and how the body responds to them. Treatment is usually given over several weeks to months in cycles with breaks in between. These rest periods will allow the body to build healthy new cells and regain its strength.
Immunotherapy uses parts of the body’s own immune system to fight off cancer. This relatively new therapy is often used in conjunction with other treatments.
This is a new, exciting area of applied research, where the tumor cells alone are targeted by drugs recently approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and in use at HCCC.
What is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy directs a stream of high-energy particles, such as x-rays, at the treatment site in order to kill the cancer cells. According to the American Cancer Society, more than one-half of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy.
Holzer Health System has a new form of technology used in fighting cancer. TrueBeam, produced by Varian Medical Systems, is a new and advanced radiotherapy and radiosurgery treatment system. TrueBeam allows for faster and more precise cancer treatment. When a patient goes through radiotherapy, it limits the ability for cancer cells to grow and reproduce. When cancer cells can’t reproduce, they die, and tumors eventually shrink. No radioactive substances are involved in the creation of the beam that is used by TrueBeam. The medical linear accelerator produces radiation in the form of high energy x-rays that aim at and target cancer cells directly. This direct targeting allows TrueBeam to determine what is “good tissue,” and what actually needs to be removed. 3-D images of tumors can be taken, and thanks to TrueBeam, treatment can now take less than two minutes to complete when it previously could have taken 10 to 30 minutes. Breathing can be monitored, and no surgery is required. TrueBeam is innovative and constantly updated to keep cancer treatment as accurate and painless as possible. TrueBeam treats many different types of cancer including, lung, kidney, liver and breast. It is easy to use, and cost and treatment may vary.
External Beam Therapy (EBT)
External Beam Therapy (EBT) uses a machine called a linear accelerator to deliver a beam of high-energy x-rays to the location of a patient’s tumor. The beam is targeted at the tumor site to treat both superficial and deep-seated tumors. These x-rays can destroy cancer cells, and careful treatment planning allows the surrounding normal tissues to be spared. No radioactive sources are placed inside the patient’s body.
3-D Conformal Radiation Therapy
One of the first steps in radiation therapy is a CT (Computed Tomography) scan. This computerized simulation will determine the exact areas of your body that your team will treat. 3-D Conformal Radiation Therapy may also be utilized. This process combines the CT scanned images with specialized technology to map a precise three-dimensional location of a cancer.
Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)
IMRT involves varying (or modulating) the intensity of the radiation (in this case, x-rays) used as therapy for cancer. It is a new form of radiation therapy that uses computer-generated images to plan and then deliver more tightly focused radiation beams to cancerous tumors than is possible with conventional radiotherapy. With this capability, clinicians can deliver a precise radiation that conforms to the shape of the tumor, while significantly reducing the amount of radiation to surrounding healthy tissues. Consequently, the technique can increase the rate of tumor control while significantly reducing adverse side effects.
Internal Radiation (Brachytherapy)
Internal Radiation (IR) (also known as Brachytherapy) - IR is a treatment for cancer where radioactive sources are placed inside, or directly next to, the tumor. A higher dose of radiation can be given to a smaller area of the body compared with external radiation treatments. By minimizing the radiation given to surrounding normal tissues, side effects are reduced.
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