There are a variety of treatments available today for treating cancer, including:
- Surgery. This can remove the cancer or as much of it as possible.
- Radiation. This uses X-rays to kill cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy. This uses potent drugs to kill the cancer cells.
- Stem cell transplant. This is also commonly called bone marrow transplant. This uses stem cells which are found in the bone marrow and are the precursors to all other blood cells. The cells are collected from the patient, or less commonly from a donor, and then placed back into the patient after receiving a large dose of chemotherapy or radiation. This allows for the creation of a new healthy bone marrow and immune system.
- Hormone therapy. Some cancers such as breast cancer and prostate cancer are worsened due to the effects of certain hormones in our bodies. Blocking these effects is the goal of hormone therapy.
- Targeted drug therapy. This method allows an anti-cancer drug to specifically attack a specified cancer cell.
- Biological therapy. Helps your own immune system to better recognize and fight off cancer cells.
- Alternative medicine. Not scientifically proven, yet found to be quite helpful for many patients. Such therapies include meditation, acupuncture, yoga, massage, and hypnosis.
- Vitamins and food supplements. Also unproven, but widely used with some success.
Although there is no way as of yet to prevent cancer, there are ways to reduce the risk of having cancer including:
- Stop smoking. Smoking has been associated with many types of cancer, not just lung cancer.
- Eat a healthy diet. Concentrate on fruits and vegetables and select whole grains and non-fatty proteins.
- Avoiding excessive sun exposure. Avoid mid-day sun, use sun screen liberally and avoid tanning booths.
- Get plenty of exercise. At least 30 minutes of exercise daily is a good goal.
- Avoid obesity. Maintain a healthy weight.
- Drink alcohol in moderation if you choose to drink. One dink per day for women, two drinks per day for men.
- Schedule routine screening exams. Talk to your doctor about what exams you may need depending on your risk factors.
The bad news about cancer is that it is still so very prevalent in our society. As I have personally found out, anyone can experience it. The good news is that through early detection and rapidly improving treatments, cancer patients in general have a much improved survival rate. I think that if researchers can somehow find methods to mobilize our immune systems to better recognize cancer and to successfully overwhelm it in its early stages, we may then be close to a cure for many cancers.
From my own personal experience with cancer and from many patients I have treated, my advice is that if something about your health just doesn’t seem right, don’t assume it’s nothing to worry about. Listen to your body as only you can do. Don’t take a chance. Being checked out by your doctor sooner rather than later could save your life.
- Terry Hollenbeck, M.D., is an urgent-care physician at Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz in Scotts Valley. Readers can view his previous columns on his website, valleydoctor.wordpress.com, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information in this column is not intended to replace advice from your own health care professional. For any medical concern, consult your own doctor.