Our team strives to make your cancer treatment as comfortable as possible. Chemotherapy is used to treat cancer by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells. Non-cancerous cells grow and die in a controlled way. Cancer occurs when abnormal cells divide and multiply rapidly creating more abnormal, or cancerous, cells in the body. There are often side effects when a patient receives chemotherapy because the treatment also slows the growth of healthy cells. Non-cancerous cells typically repair themselves after chemotherapy.
The type of chemotherapy you receive depends on your type of cancer, where the cancer is located in the body, and your overall health. Our cancer care specialists will develop an individualized treatment plan. In many cases, chemotherapy is used in combination with surgery and/or radiation.
Some of the more recent developments in cancer treatment are called biologic therapies. A biologic drug is created from substances produced by living cells, as opposed to chemically synthesized chemotherapy.
These therapies precisely attack cancer using a combination of drugs and other substances. They are able to identify the cancerous cells and attack them while leaving the normal, healthy cells alone. Targeted therapies are considered chemotherapy but they work differently than traditional chemotherapy drugs.
Targeted therapies include: oral agents called tyrosine kinase inhibitors and intravenous agents called monoclonal antibodies. Most targeted therapies are either small-molecule drugs or monoclonal antibodies. Small-molecule drugs are small enough to enter cells easily, so they are used for targets that are inside cells. Monoclonal antibodies are drugs that are not able to enter cells easily. Instead, they attach to specific targets on the outer surface of cancer cells.
Many times, this type of treatment is safer and has fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy drugs. Our physicians will determine if you are a candidate for targeted therapy treatment and will explain all that is involved in the treatment process.
Some cancer cells, found in hormone-sensitive tissues, are hormone-sensitive or hormone-dependent, meaning they rely on hormones to grow or develop. Treatments block the action of hormones to slow or stop cancer from growing. Similar to chemotherapy, hormone therapy is considered a systemic treatment in that it is designed to have a widespread effect on the cancer cells in the body. The treatment period for hormone therapy is determined on a case-by-case basis but often lasts several years.
Hormone therapy is often used:
- After surgery – to help reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence
- As the cancer treatment – to lessen the chance that cancer will return or stop/slow its growth
- To ease cancer symptoms – to reduce or prevent symptoms in men with prostate cancer who are not able to have surgery or radiation therapy
- Before surgery – your doctor may decide that your treatment plan includes hormone therapy before surgery as an alternative to chemotherapy
Side Effects of Hormone Therapy
Hormone treatments block or interfere with your body’s natural hormone production, which can result in unwanted side effects. Side effects of hormone therapy are different for men and women.
Some common side effects for men who receive hormone therapy for prostate cancer include:
- Hot flashes
- Loss of interest in or ability to have sex
- Weakened bones
- Enlarged and tender breasts
Some common side effects for women who receive hormone therapy for breast cancer include:
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Changes in your periods, if you have not yet reached menopause
- Loss of interest in sex
- Mood changes
Immunotherapy uses drugs that target a body’s own immune system to help fight cancer. Significant advancements in immunotherapies have been developed in the last few years. The FDA has approved new I-O therapies for melanoma and lung cancer. Our physicians are dedicated to learning about and shaping the newest findings in cancer treatment, and as a result, are able to extend the latest in high-quality care to our patients as soon as new options become available.