- Biological Therapy
- Clinical Trials
- Complementary and Integrative Therapies
- Hormone Therapy
- Palliative Care
- Radiation Therapy
- Stem Cell Transplant
- Targeted Therapy
- Watchful Waiting
Biological therapy helps the body fight cancer, manages side effects, and helps prevent cancer. Examples of this type of treatment include monoclonal antibodies (see targeted therapy), growth factors, and vaccines.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to fight cancer throughout the body. Most chemotherapy is given through a needle or catheter placed in a vein in the arm or through an implanted port in the chest. Some types of chemotherapy are taken by mouth. Learn more about this treatment in our introduction to chemotherapy video or chemotherapy infusion education factsheet.
Clinical trials study and discover new or improved ways to treat, diagnose, and prevent cancer. Some clinical trials discover new treatments, while others study new delivery methods or combinations of treatments already in use. Some clinical trials investigate ways to find cancer as early as possible and to improve cancer survivorship and quality of life. View HCI's current clinical trials and learn how to participate.
Complementary and integrative therapies are used along with standard treatments (such as surgery and chemotherapy) to help reduce symptoms, manage treatment side effects, and to improve overall wellness. Examples include acupuncture, massage therapy, dietary changes, and meditation. Visit our Wellness-Survivorship Center or Cancer Learning Center to learn more about these therapies.
- Medicines: The doctor gives certain drugs that stop the production of certain hormones or prevent hormones from working.
- Surgery: Surgeons remove organs that make hormones, such as the ovaries or testicles.
Palliative care enhances cancer treatment by improving quality of life for patients. It involves management of pain, as well as cancer symptoms and treatment side effects; mental health and spiritual support; assistance with medical decision making and advance care planning; and integrative therapies. Palliative care is part of cancer treatment any time physical or psychological symptoms interfere with quality of life.
- External radiation: The radiation comes from a large machine outside the body. Most people go to a hospital or clinic for treatment five days a week for several weeks.
- Internal radiation (also called brachytherapy): The radiation comes from radioactive material placed in seeds, needles, or thin plastic tubes that are put in or near the tissue. The patient usually stays in the hospital for this treatment. The implants generally remain in place for several days.
- Systemic radiation: The radiation comes from liquid or capsules containing radioactive material that travels throughout the body. The patient swallows the liquid or capsules or receives an injection. This type of radiation therapy can be used to treat cancer or control pain from cancer that has spread to the bone. Only a few types of cancer are currently treated in this way.
Stem cell transplant is a procedure to replace blood-forming stem cells. The patient receives high doses of chemotherapy, radiation, or both, which kill cancer cells and healthy cells in the bone marrow where blood is formed. The patient then receives new blood-forming stem cells through an IV. Healthy blood cells develop from the transplanted stem cells. Stem cells may be taken from the patient before the high-dose treatment, or they may come from another person.
Surgery removes the tumor and some tissue around it. Taking some nearby tissue may help prevent the tumor from growing back and can help the doctor know if all the cancer was removed. The surgeon may also remove some nearby lymph nodes.
Targeted therapy is a type of biological therapy that uses medicines to find specific cancer cells and to stop cancer from growing. An example of this treatment is monoclonal antibodies, which are specialized proteins that can attach to cancer cells and carry cancer-fighting substances directly to a tumor.
Watchful waiting (also called active surveillance or expectant management) means health care providers closely watch a patient's condition, but do not give treatment unless symptoms appear or change. During watchful waiting, patients are regularly given certain medical tests to watch for early signs that the condition is getting worse.
Where to Turn with Your Questions or Concerns
The source for this information is the National Cancer Institute.