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Women and Cancer / Cancer and Women

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Treatment

The method of treatment depends on the stage the cancer is in. However, every method has its side effects. Therefore, the choice of what treatment is to be used should be a judicious one. It is best if the patient discusses the course of treatment and associated side effects with the doctor before making a choice.


Surgery
Radiation therapy 
Chemotherapy
Hormone therapy
Biological therapy

Surgery
Involves removing the tumor. The tissue surrounding the tumor and nearby lymph nodes could also be removed during the operation.

Radiation therapy
Also known as radiotherapy. High-energy rays are trained on the cancer cells to stop them from growing and multiplying. This is also local treatment, like surgery; it can affect cancer cells only in the treated area. There are two kinds of radiotherapy: external radiation, where the patient receives radiation from a machine, and internal radiation, where radiation comes from an implant placed directly into or near the tumor.

External radiation therapy is usually given on an outpatient basis in a hospital or clinic. Patients are not radioactive either during or after the treatment. In the case of internal radiation therapy, the patient has to be hospitalized for a few days. The implant may be temporary or permanent. Because the level of radiation is high, the patient may not be able to receive visitors while in hospital. Once the implant is removed, there is no radioactivity in the body. For permanent implants, the patient is allowed to leave, once the amount of radiation comes down to a safe level.

Chemotherapy
In this method, drugs are used to kill cancer cells. Anti cancer drugs are injected into a vein or a muscle; sometimes, it is also given orally. Chemotherapy is systemic treatment; the drugs enter the blood stream and reach nearly every part of the body.

The therapy generally happens in cycles: treatment period is followed by a recovery period, and so on. Usually, chemotherapy does not involve a hospital stay. However, this also depends on factors like which drugs are being used and patient's general health.

Hormone therapy
This works on cancers, like breast cancer, which need hormones to grow. The therapy prevents cancer cells from getting or using the hormones they need. This could involve surgery to remove organs - such as the ovaries - that make the hormones. Otherwise, drugs are used to stop hormone production or to change the way they act. This is also systemic treatment.

Biological therapy
Also called immunotherapy. Uses the patient's own immune system to fight the disease.

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