Once a proper diagnosis has been made, your CCK physician will discuss with you appropriate treatment options and create a plan that is right for you. These options are influenced greatly on several factors, including your specific type of cancer, the staging of your cancer, your overall health condition and the goals of treatment.
At CCK, we believe strongly in personalized cancer care. This means that each patient’s treatment plan is determined for them. Even among patients with the same type of cancer, there can be great variation in the response to treatment or characteristics of the cancer that our CCK physician will consider in the treatment assessment and planning.
What Is Cancer?
Simply defined, cancer is a disease characterized by the growth of abnormal cells which may damage or destroy normal body tissue. Our bodies have the capacity to control cell growth and reproduction, but sometimes this mechanism fails and a tumor may form. There are also non-tumor cancers which form in the blood or bone marrow and circulate throughout the body.
Why Do People Get Cancer?
It is not known why some people get cancer while others do not. However, we do know that certain risk factors increase a person’s chance of getting cancer.
Risk Factors Include:
- Age – While cancer can be diagnosed at any age, the majority of cancers can take many years to develop, and is therefore more commonly diagnosed in adults 65 or older.
- Lifestyle – While cancer can be diagnosed at any age, the majority of cancers can take many years to develop, and is therefore more commonly diagnosed in adults 65 or older.
- Family History – We know that genetics play a role in developing certain types of cancer. Genetic mutations can be passed from one generation to the next. Patients with a strong family history of certain types of cancer may be referred for genetic testing.
- Your Environment – Direct exposure to certain things in our environment may increase the risk of cancer. For example, if you do not smoke, you may inhale secondhand smoke from being or living with someone who does smoke. Certain chemicals used in the workplace, such as asbestos and benzene, have also been directly linked to cancer.
How is Cancer Diagnosed?
Cancer must be detected before it can be diagnosed. In some situations, patients may notice a lump, or some abnormality on their body. Other times, the patient’s lab results may show a suspicious irregularity. These symptoms are researched through various testing mechanisms (biopsy, CT Scans, X-rays, PET Scans, MRI). If a biopsy is performed, the tissue is sent for pathology, and a diagnosis is made. Once the diagnosis is made, the cancer is staged, which means a determination is made as to whether the cancer has spread (metastasized), and if so, to which parts of the body. The stages of cancer range from I to IV. The lower the stage, the less extensive the spread.
How is Cancer Treated?
Generally speaking, treatment for cancer depends a great deal on the specific diagnosis and stage of the cancer, and may include surgery to remove the cancer, chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, or certain other therapies which stimulate the body’s immune system to identify and kill cancer cells.
After years of research, we are now able to identify and combat many cancers at the genetic level. Some cancers are no longer identified according to where they are located in the body, but the type of genetic mutation involved.
Chemotherapy is a type of treatment that uses a drug or a combination of drugs to destroy or slow the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy is considered a systemic therapy, meaning that is may affect the entire body. Chemotherapy drugs can be administered in different forms, most frequently through a vein or orally in the form of a pill. Although chemotherapy can often cause side effects, many of these side effects can be managed or prevented in order for many patients to continue with their usual daily activities while on treatment, so our CCK team will discuss these side effects and management tools with every patient.
Your Chemotherapy Guide
Cancer Center of Kansas and put together a guide for those receiving or interesting in learning more about Chemotherapy. View our Chemotherapy Guide.
Targeted therapy is exactly what its name implies. This type of treatment targets specific molecules that contribute to the growth and spread of cancer. Unlike traditional chemotherapy, targeted therapy blocks tumor cell proliferation, while standard chemotherapy kills rapidly dividing cells (both normal cells and cancerous cells). Because it attacks only specific cells in the body, targeted therapy usually carries fewer or reduced side effects than traditional chemotherapy.
A great deal of anticancer research is being devoted to targeted therapy, with the hope of developing a cure.
To understand hormonal therapy, we must understand what hormones are. Hormones are natural substances produced in our glands. Our bodies have a network of glands, called the endocrine system. Hormones are secreted from our glands and carried through the bloodstream. They have many functions in the body, one of which is to control the growth and function of certain cells and organs.
Some types of cancer need hormones in order to grow. Hormonal therapy blocks the production or activity of these hormones, thereby obstructing the cancer cell’s ability to reproduce. Hormonal therapy is commonly used for treating certain types of breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Biological therapy is also referred to as immunotherapy or biotherapy. This type of treatment stimulates the body’s immune system to increase its ability fight infection and disease. It can also be used to prevent certain side effects of treatments for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease.
Although surgery can also be used in the diagnosing and staging of cancer as well, surgery for treatment purposes directly removes the cancer and/or adjacent tissue in the area. Oftentimes surgery will also provide information about the cancer for further treatment planning. Therefore, your CCK oncologist will collaborate with the surgeon for gathering the information necessary to determine the most effective continued treatment options.
Radiation is a term that describes high-energy rays used to damage or destroy cancer cells without harming normal, healthy cells. This type of therapy usually requires a specific number of treatments over a set period of time. It can be used in a variety of settings. For example, radiation may be the primary treatment to destroy any remaining cells after a patient has had adjuvant chemotherapy; or radiation may be given manage some of the symptoms of cancer in patients whose cancer cannot be cured. This is called palliative radiation, and the goal is to improve the patient’s quality of life.
More than half of patients with cancer receive radiation therapy, either by itself, or in combination with chemotherapy, surgery, or immunotherapy.