What is Cancer Therapy?

Mary McMahon

Cancer therapy is a treatment program which is designed to help a patient with cancer. There are a number of approaches to cancer therapy, ranging from aggressive treatments which are designed to eliminate the cancer to treatment plans which focus on palliative care for patients with cancers which are incurable. A cancer therapy plan is typically developed by an oncologist who works with a patient and a care team which can include surgeons, radiologists, psychologists, and numerous other care providers.

Cancer therapy tackles emotional issues like the loneliness experienced by some cancer patients.
Cancer therapy tackles emotional issues like the loneliness experienced by some cancer patients.

As soon as a patient is diagnosed with cancer, tests will be ordered to determine the type of cancer and its extent. The goal of these tests is to create a complete picture of the cancer which can be used in the development of a treatment plan. Armed with this information, an oncologist and patient can talk together about the cancer, possible treatments, and the prognosis. Patients may find that they need to meet with several oncologists before they meet one who is a good fit.

Cancer therapy can include the use of radiation therapy equipment, like linear accelerators.
Cancer therapy can include the use of radiation therapy equipment, like linear accelerators.

A well designed cancer therapy plan does not just deal with the physical reality of the cancer, although this is obviously important. It also includes psychological treatment for the emotional distress which can accompany a cancer diagnosis, along with supportive care to help patients manage the side effects of cancer treatments. Cancer therapy can include the use of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation to attack the cancer, along with alternative medicine to manage stress, psychiatric therapy to help with fear, and group therapy to allow a patient to adjust to his or her diagnosis in a supportive environment with other patients.

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Cancer therapy can include psychiatric therapy to help manage fear.
Cancer therapy can include psychiatric therapy to help manage fear.

Treating cancer can be a prolonged battle which can generate considerable strain. While cancer therapy is designed to treat cancer, it also needs to take other factors into account, such as the stress which cancer can put on a marriage, the loneliness experienced by some cancer patients, the financial difficulties associated with a major medical diagnosis, and issues such as harrowing side effects associated with many cancer drugs. Cancer therapy can also include experimental treatments and approaches to cancer, such as enrollment in drug trials which might improve the patient's prognosis.

Chemotherapy is used to treat aggressive types of cancer, but often has many physical side effects.
Chemotherapy is used to treat aggressive types of cancer, but often has many physical side effects.

When establishing a cancer therapy program, patients should think about issues like the prognosis for the cancer, the success of various treatment options, personal beliefs, and contingency plans. A good oncologist will present a patient with balanced, useful information which will help the patient reach a sound decision about treatment or management of the cancer, and the doctor may also provide referrals to cancer resource centers and other community and hospital resources which could help the patient.

Oncologists specialize in the treatment of cancer.
Oncologists specialize in the treatment of cancer.

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