How Childhood Cancer Is Treated
Chemotherapy is the general term for any treatment involving the use of chemical agents to stop cancer cells from growing. Chemotherapy can eliminate cancer cells at sites great distances from the original cancer. As a result, chemotherapy is considered a systemic treatment.
More than half of all people diagnosed with cancer receive chemotherapy. For millions of people, chemotherapy helps treat their cancer effectively, enabling them to enjoy full, productive lives.
A chemotherapy regimen (a treatment plan and schedule) usually includes drugs to fight cancer plus drugs to help support completion of the cancer treatment at the full dose on schedule. Most doctors agree that staying on your chemotherapy schedule gives you the best opportunity for a successful result.
How Chemotherapy Works
Chemotherapy is designed to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be administered through a vein, injected into a body cavity, or delivered orally in the form of a pill, depending on which drug is used.
Chemotherapy works by destroying cancer cells; unfortunately, it cannot tell the difference between a cancer cell and some healthy cells. So chemotherapy eliminates not only the fast-growing cancer cells but also other fast-growing cells in your body, including hair and blood cells.
Some cancer cells grow slowly while others grow rapidly. As a result, different types of chemotherapy drugs target the growth patterns of specific types of cancer cells. Each drug has a different way of working and is effective at a specific time in the life cycle of the cell it targets. Your doctor will determine the chemotherapy drug that is right for you..
Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, uses high-energy rays to damage or kill cancer cells and prevent them from growing and dividing, or to ease symptoms caused by cancer.
Similar to surgery, radiation therapy is typically a local (not systemic) treatment to eliminate or eradicate visible tumors. Radiation therapy is not typically useful in eradicating cancer cells that have already spread to other parts of the body.
Radiation therapy may be externally or internally delivered.
External radiation delivers high-energy rays directly to the tumor site from a machine outside the body.
Internal radiation, or brachytherapy , involves the placement of a small amount of radioactive material in or near the cancer.
When Is Surgery Necessary?
Although most patients will have a biopsy performed, not all cancers require surgical treatment. Some cancers are best treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy, or both. In some instances, the cancer may be too big or too difficult to remove with surgery.
Your health care team will work with you to decide whether surgery is part of your overall treatment plan. If surgery is necessary, you will undergo a number of tests to determine whether you are an appropriate candidate for surgery.
Diagnosing Cancer With Surgery
One common type of surgery used to help with diagnosing cancer is a biopsy.
A biopsy means taking a tissue sample from your body for examination by a specialist in a laboratory.
A positive biopsy indicates the presence of cancer.
A negative biopsy may indicate that no cancer is present in the sample.
When surgery is used for treatment, the cancer and some tissue adjacent to the cancer are typically removed. In addition to providing local treatment of the cancer, information gained during surgery is useful in predicting the likelihood of cancer recurrence and whether other treatment modalities will be necessary. Over the years, continuing advances in surgery have led to less invasive, less complicated, and safer procedures. As a result, some surgeries previously requiring hospitalization are now performed safely in an outpatient setting. Other types of surgeries are used to treat cancer once it has been diagnosed..