Currently, there are 5 common forms of treatments to fight cancers, malignant tumors, leukemia and lymphoma, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, herbal therapy and biotherapy. The option of cancer treatments depends upon the typing of malignant tumors, the stage of cancer disease, and the state of patient’s physical condition and the knowledge of physicians. Each kind of treatments has its special mission in curing or remission of the malignant diseases.
Surgery is the number one treatment for patients with early stage of malignant tumors or patients with small cancer without metastases in distal organ or tissue. The definition of a small tumor is that the size of a tumor is smaller than 30 mm in diameters on CT-scan or MRI images.
· Curative surgery
Curative surgery removes the cancerous tumor or growth from the body. Surgeons use curative surgery when the malignant tumor is localized to a specific area of the body. This type of treatment is often considered the primary treatment. However, other types of cancer treatments, such as radiation, may be used before or after the surgery.
· Palliative surgery
Palliative surgery is used to treat cancer at advanced stages. It does not work to cure cancer, but to relieve discomfort clinical symptoms or to correct other problems cancer or cancer treatment may have created.
· Preventive surgery
Preventive surgery is used to remove tissue that does not contain cancerous cells, but may develop into a malignant tumor. For example, polyps in the colon may be considered precancerous tissue and preventative surgery may be performed to remove them.
· Diagnostic surgery
Diagnostic surgery helps to determine whether cells are malignant. Diagnostic surgery is used to remove a tissue sample for pathological evaluation to confirm a diagnosis, identify the type of a malignant disease, or determine the stage of the cancer.
· De-bulking surgery
Debunking surgery removes a portion, though not all, of a tumor. It is used in certain situations when removing an entire tumor may cause damage to an organ or the body. Clinically, it is uncommonly used.
· Supportive surgery
Supportive surgery is similar to palliative surgery because it does not work to cure cancer. Instead, it helps other cancer treatments work effectively. An example of supportive surgery is the insertion of a catheter to an artery for chemotherapy or a feeding tube to stomach for nutrition.
This surgery technique uses extremely cold temperatures (-196oC) to kill cancer cells. Cryosurgery is used most often with skin cancer and cervical cancer. Depending on whether the tumor is inside or outside the body, liquid nitrogen is placed on the skin or in an instrument called a cryoprobe which is inserted into the body so that it touches the tumor. Cryosurgery is being evaluated as a surgical treatment for several types of cancers.
· Laser surgery
This technique uses beams of light energy instead of instruments to remove very small cancers (without damaging surrounding tissue), to shrink or destroy tumors, or to activate photo-sensitizer drugs to kill cancer cells. Laser surgery is a very precise procedure that can be used to treat areas of the body that are difficult to reach including the skin, cervix, rectum, and larynx due to the laser fibers are flexible.
Though science and medical technology have made surgery a safe and reliable treatment option, there is always the risk of potential problems and side effects. In many cases, however, the positive effects of surgery outweigh the risks. This is one of the reasons why learning about your cancer and cancer treatment is important. The more you know about surgery for cancer, the more informed your choices will be. Be sure to discuss the potential complications with your cancer care team prior to undergoing treatment.
Chemotherapy is one of major cancer treatments and it has cured many patients with cancer, leukemia or lymphoma. The chemotherapy for cancer treatment has been extensively studied for over 50 years. Chemotherapy is the use of powerful chemical drugs that can attack and kill cancer cells. These drugs run through the bloodstream killing rapidly growing cells, including both cancer cells and normal cells.
Cancer chemotherapy drugs can be administered into an artery, a vein and muscle or taken by mouth. To reach the best treatment result, chemotherapy is usually used in the combination with surgery and radiation.
Chemotherapy has serious side-effects. Although chemotherapy kills fast-growing cancer cells, it kills many types of fast-growing healthy cells, for examples, mucosal cells in digestive system and urinary bladder system, that can cause bleeding from the above tissues and organs; and damaging to bone marrow and immune system, that causes lower counts of white blood cells and platelets, and immune cells such as lymphocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells and NK cells. In addition, the adverse effects of chemotherapeutic drugs include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, mucositis, anemia, hematuria, heart damage, neuropathy, alopecia and allergic and so on.
Radiation is one of the 5 common forms of treatment used to fight cancers. It can be used alone or in combination with other forms of treatment. Cancer radiation treatments can also be called x-ray therapy, cobalt therapy, electron beam therapy or irradiation.
Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells, shrink tumors, and prevent cancer cells from growing and spreading. Radiation can be given externally or internally with the external beam being the most common type of radiation treatment.
Radiation therapy is an effective way to treat many kinds of tumor from brain and breast cancer to ovarian and prostate cancer. Half of all people being treated for cancer use radiation therapy as a treatment and the number of cancer patients who have been cured is on the rise every day. For some patients, radiation might be the only form of treatment available to them. Radiation is used alone or in the combination with surgery and chemotherapy as well as hormone therapy.
Patients who receive radiation treatments run the risk of normal cells being destroyed along with cancer cells. When this occurs the patient will experience side effects but the risk of side effects is less than the benefits of the cancer cells being killed.
Herbal Cancer Treatment
As early as more than 3,000 years ago, Chinese doctors had used herbs in treatment of cancer patients. Herbal medicines divide into 3 categories.
The first is the Classic Chinese Medicines that include 265 kinds of medicinal plants and a few of medicinal minerals that have been scientifically identified and proven by clinic studies.
The second is the folk herbs (called the folk experienced herb recipe) that have approximately 600 sorts.
The third is called hi-tech herbal medicine in which active ingredients in each raw herb have been analyzed, identified and concentrated. Generally, the therapeutic effect of hi-tech herbal medicines is about 10 to 20-fold more powerful than raw herbs if they are formulated properly by an experienced herbal doctor or herbal specialist.
All of cancer patients are advised to see their primary care physician or oncologist before seeking an herbal doctor or herbal specialist or visit Herbal Cancer Center. All of cancer patients should have asked their primary care physician for a confirmed diagnosis by pathology, CT-scan or MRI or laboratory immuno-biochemical tests.
If a patient is suffering from an early stage of malignant disease or cancer (Stages I and II), or the size of tumor is less than 30 mm (previously 50 mm) in diameters, surgery and preventive chemotherapy are the first chosen. Sometimes, radiotherapy should be considered if it is necessary.
In the United States, herbal supplements and herbal treatment are still regarded as alternative therapies. Therefore, herbal cancer treatment is indicated for:
1) Advanced stage of cancer patients who have been treated with Western medicine and who had failed to Western medical treatments.
2) Patient still has a general good health and is able to talk, drink, walk, and has good appetite and bowel movement, and normal function of heart, lung, liver and kidneys because all of herbal remedies are only allowed to be taken by mouth in the United States.
3) Patients should be confidence and open mind and have a positive thought of long-term fight to cancer because herbal treatment is an integrating therapy, it works on multiple systems and whole body, up-regulates patient’s interiror anti-cancer powers and factors.
4) Herbal treatment can heal some cancer patients but it cannot cure all kinds of cancer patient due to different disease-stage, different patient’s physical condition and different professional levels of herbal doctors (some of them are quick herbalist).
5) Generally speaking, compared to Western medicine the following malignant diseases might obtain good therapeutic effect from herbal treatment, such as breast cancer, lung cancer, cancer of liver, kidney, prostate, ovary and colon rectum, leukemia and lymphoma. It is reported that many cases of such cancer patients have been cured with experienced herbal doctors in China.
The FDA regulators face two main challenges during the approval process. First, they must make sure the treatment is safe and effective. The second challenge is to make promising treatments available as quickly as possible to the people who need them the most.
They go on to use the example of Herceptin, a drug used to target a protein called HER2 and kill the cells that contain cancer. New treatments such as Herceptin must have the benefits of the use of the drug weighed against the risks of side effects. This particular drug was proven to prolong the life of women with breast cancer when used along with standard chemotherapy.
Those that suffer from serious or life-threatening diseases can benefit from an accelerated approval program that gives them earlier access to promising new cancer drugs. One of these drugs is Iressa, which was approved as a single agent treatment for those people with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. Cancer of the lung and bronchus is the leading cause of cancer death in both sexes in the United States.
Beside those, Interleukin-2, an activator of T cells, has been used in patients with melanoma, cancer of kidney and other malignant tumors at NIH clinical trial group (Dr. Rosenberg) and at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center of Harvard Medical School (Dr. James Mier). In these cases interleukin-2 therapy gives about 15% to 18% of patient survival in the selected candidates.
In addition, antibody therapy, fusion protein therapy, immune cell therapy, tumor vaccine therapy and cancer gene therapy are promising in animal studies but they are not really working in humans today (2006).
(Some paragraphs in this chapter are abstracted from the articles of American Cancer Society website)