When it comes to choosing the correct cancer treatment, mainstream medicine like surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and biotherapy are very popular.
Then there are complementary treatments like Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tibetan Medicine etc. that support the mainstream ones. Understanding the different approaches is critical to making informed choices.
Surgery is usually the most commonly used cancer treatment since it is direct and has a proven track record.
- During surgery, the tumour cells are physically detached from the body with minimal damage or disturbance to healthy tissue cells.
- This is done to get rid of any malignant cells remaining in the body so that the affected organ and related body systems regain their regular state.
- Often, surgery is the best course of action when cancer is diagnosed early, tumours are localised and they spread slowly.
- However, for certain types of cancer, particularly cancers of the blood, surgery may not be the best option.
Chemotherapy is another popular cancer treatment. It aims to control and reverse the uncontrolled growth of cells, using drugs.
- Very often it is a follow-up to surgery. But it is also used for a specific period of time before surgery to reduce the tumour size.
- The flipside of chemo is that it can affect the healthy cells in the process of destroying the cancer cells.
- It can also severely affect bone marrow, hair, skin, digestive tract and the immune system. Some of the known side effects of this form of cancer treatment are fatigue, nausea, poor appetite, metallic taste, infections, bruising, bleeding, anaemia and hair loss.
- However, with advancements in medicine there is more precise targeting of cells and the side-effects have also reduced to some extent.
Like chemotherapy, radiotherapy also aims to impede uncontrolled cell growth. Gamma rays are used (at approximately 10,000 times the intensity of normal X-rays).
- It can be used for more targeted and controlled interventions, which works best for localised cancers.
- Its side-effects are similar to that of chemotherapy. Besides, radiotherapy can cause severe burning of surface and internal tissues, which can be very painful.
Biotherapy is relatively more recent cancer treatment option. Bio-chemicals such as antibodies, interferons and interleukins are introduced into the bloodstream.
- These biochemicals reactivate the body’s own immune system and promote the repair of damaged genes.
- A lot of research can been conducted in this area. While the findings are encouraging they aren’t yet conclusive.
Complementary cancer treatments
Many people are of the opinion that mainstream treatments are toxic, with severe side-effects. On the other hand, complementary treatments are natural, inexpensive and are often based on ancient, tried-and-tested healing systems.
- Be it Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine or Tibetan, each complementary cancer treatment focuses on treating the person as a whole. Not just the affected organ.
- A complementary treatment for cancer can help to achieve holistic healing, deal with side effects and also minimise your chances of recurrence of spread.
- While some people use these treatments as an alternative, it is always advisable to use it alongside mainstream treatments. This aids the overall healing.
Cancer treatment steps
- Surgery is usually the first line of cancer treatment.
- Post the successful surgery, regular follow-up and tests are essential to ensure that the tumour doesn’t recur.
- If the cancer doesn’t recur for five years, it means that the patient is in remission for that period and the patient is considered as ‘cured’.
#2. Chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy
- Depending on the stage of the tumour and other factors, surgery is either preceded or followed by chemotherapy or radiotherapy. The treatment is directed towards controlling the tumour growth.
- However, these cancer treatment approaches may be unsuccessful, partly successful, or the cancer may recur. So the focus shifts towards controlling the cancer from spreading to other organs.
#3. Combining cancer treatment options
- If one method of cancer treatment doesn’t work, doctors try various options and combinations in the hope that something will prove to be effective.
- Each person is unique, the way the body and mind respond to treatment is also unique. Hence, it is important to follow the cancer treatment/s that works for your body and mind.
#4. ‘Maintenance’ mode
- If the tumour shrinks or stops growing, the cancer treatment is kept in ‘maintenance’ mode to contain the tumour and its spread to other parts of the body.
- However, if the tumour continues to grow and/or spread, then surgery may be done again and the chemotherapy/radiotherapy treatments reapplied, often more aggressively.
- If, after trying all possible cancer treatment combinations, the tumour doesn’t respond, aggressive interventions may be discontinued and the focus then shifts to keeping the patient functional, comfortable and free of pain till the end of life. This is called palliative care.
From the varied cancer treatment options available to you, it important to choose the combination of treatments that bring about holistic healing of the mind and body.