There are many types of cancer. There are separate pages for breast cancer and prostate cancer. At this page you can find information about the treatment methods for other cancer types, such as:
- Cervical cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Lung cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Colon cancer
By means of surgery, tumours and/or metastases can be removed from the body. Sometimes the surgeons do not succeed in removing the whole tumour.
Radiotherapy (radiation therapy)
Radiotherapy involves applying radiation to kill the tumour cells. Radiotherapy can replace surgery, can be done before the surgery (to reduce tumour size) or after the surgery (to kill remaining tumour cells). Most kinds of radiotherapy are performed 'externally', meaning that the radiation source is placed outside of the body and aimed at the tumour. In some cases, it is possible to put the radiation source in or nearby the tumour, causing the tumour to be destroyed from the inside ('internal radiotherapy').
Chemotherapy involves applying substances that are poisonous to tumour cells. These substances are to lesser extent harmful to other dividing cells, such as skin-, hair- and gut cells. Fortunately, healthy cells usually heal better than tumour cells from the damage that the chemotherapy has caused. Chemotherapy can be applied via the blood stream (infusion), via the skin (injection) or via the mouth (tablet or drink).
Treatments using hormones or anti-hormones can be useful when dealing with tumours in hormone sensitive organs, such as the genitals.
Some tumours can be tackled by applying antibodies. These antibodies bind to the tumour cells, which makes it easier for the body to defeat the tumour cells.
Treatments that focus only on the symptoms
There are many treatments that help against the symptoms of the cancer or against the adverse effects of other treatments, without actually affecting the tumour itself. They can involve painkillers, drugs against nausea, physiotherapy, psychotherapy and so on.
All the treatments mentioned above can be used palliatively as well. The palliative phase starts when the cancer can no longer be cured. Examples are first-line palliative chemotherapy or second-line palliative chemotherapy for breast cancer or colon cancer. The aim of a palliative treatment is primarily to retain the quality of life.
Choosing the right medical treatment can be hard. There are guidelines with recommendations about this, but they offer space for your personal preferences. The decision aids listed below give you more information on the pros and cons of the recommended treatments for certain types of cancer and they can help you form an opinion. You can then discuss this opinion with your doctor.
N.B. Please ensure that you use only those decision aids concerning the right type and stage of the cancer.