Goals of Cancer TreatmentCancer treatment seeks to completely destroy tumors and prevent cancer from recurring or spreading. If all reasonable approaches to curing the cancer have been tried, and the cancer still is not cured, then the goal of the treatment will be to relieve symptoms and ease discomfort as much as possible.
Making Decisions About Your TreatmentIf you have cancer, it’s important to educate yourself about the type of cancer you have and the options for its treatment, so that you can make informed decisions. The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends the following approach:
- Learn about your cancer. What is its stage? Where is it located? Has it spread? Is it slow-growing or fast-growing? Take notes during your doctor visit, or bring along a friend and ask him or her to do so.
- Know your options. People with cancer don’t always realize that there are usually a number of treatment options to consider. These may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, biologic therapy, active surveillance (watchful waiting), enrolling in a clinical trial, and not receiving treatment.
- Understand the goals of the treatment. Cancer treatment can be curative or palliative. The goal of curative treatment is to eradicate the cancer completely. The goal of palliative treatment is to alleviate pain or fix problems associated with the cancer. You may be willing to put up with more unpleasant side effects if you know the goal it to cure your cancer.
- Learn about the risks and benefits of each treatment option. Every type of treatment has certain risks and side effects associated with it. Factors you should consider include what kind of side effects you can expect, how likely it is that the cancer will recur, and the chances you’ll live longer with or without treatment.
- Obtain a second or third opinion. Different oncologists are likely to have diverse experiences with various treatments. Getting different points of view may help you to make a decision.
- Consult guidelines or other decision-making tools. The American Society of Clinical Oncology, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, the American Cancer Society, and other organizations all publish decision-making tools. These tools can help you to analyze your specific condition, give you a statistical breakdown of treatment types, and identify the topics you should discuss with your doctor.
- Talk about your decision with people you trust, such as your family, friends, a member of the clergy or spiritual advisor, an oncology social worker, and other people with cancer.
Photo attribution of SEM of breast cancer cell
Copyright 1980 National Cancer Institute
Photo attribution of white blood cells among red blood cells
Copyright 1982 Bruce Wetzel and Harry Schaefer
Photo attribution patient receiving chemotherapy through a port that is placed on his chest
Copyright 2010 Rhoda Baer (national Cancer Institute)
Photo attribution of radiation therapy
Copyright 2010 Rhoda Baer
Photo attribution of skin rash
Copyright 2004 Enoch Lau
Photo attribution of skin melanoma
Copyright 1988 National Cancer Institute via Skin Cancer Foundation
Photo attribution of hair loss
Copyright 1985 Bill Branson
Photo attribution of catheter placed in arm to deliver chemotherapy
Copyright 2007 Rhoda Baer