A cancer diagnosis is a very scary reality. Cancer continues to be a serious illness, but there is hope for patients for better treatment options today that were not available a decade ago. This article addresses common questions and concerns regarding cancer treatment, including difficult to treat tumors.
How Does Cancer Treatment Work at the Cellular Level
Immune checkpoint inhibitors offer a new alternative to cancer treatment. Oncologists use the treatment method to stimulate the body to attack foreign cancer cells while protecting normal, healthy cells.
It all occurs at the cellular level of the body. Checkpoints on certain cells are either activated or deactivated to stimulate an immune response against cancer cells. However, cancer cells can use these same checkpoints to avoid an attack from the immune system.
Certain medications target cancer cells at the cellular level, so the cells can no longer be defensive against an immune system attack. As a result, the immune system can better work against the cancer cells to destroy them.
Effective medications that are immune checkpoint inhibitors include:
- Keytruda (Pembrolizumab)
- Opdivo (Nivolumab)
- Libtayo (Cemiplimab)
These medications have proven effective options for several forms of cancer, including bladder cancer, kidney cancer, melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, head and neck cancer, and Hodgkin lymphoma.
The medications, paired with a healthy immune system, can be a powerful combination to fight cancer cells.
Side effects of cancer treatments: radiation and chemotherapy versus immunotherapy and ablation
It is well known that chemotherapy medications cause adverse side effects due to the destruction of healthy cells. Cells commonly affected by chemotherapy include hair follicles, blood-forming cells in bone marrow, and the reproductive and digestive tract cells.
Not everyone has side effects, and the severity varies from person to person. Common side effects include fatigue, hair loss, infection, nausea, mouth sores, and peripheral neuropathy (numbness in the extremities). Often patients are prescribed additional medications to help them cope with the harmful side effects of chemotherapy.
According to the National Cancer Institute, radiation can damage nearby cells and tissues when used to kill cancer cells. A common overall effect of radiation therapy is fatigue.
Other side effects often vary depending on the area treated. Healthy cells are often damaged but can recover after treatment ceases. In a few cases, side effects may not improve and can even appear long after therapy is complete.
It is important to speak with your oncologist about possible side effects due to radiation and how they may vary depending upon the tumor location.
Immunotherapy can cause side effects, albeit usually less serious than those caused by chemotherapy and radiation.
Common side effects of immunotherapy include pain, soreness, redness, swelling, rash, and itchiness. Some patients can also experience Flu-like symptoms. Other rare side effects can be infection, swelling or fluid retention, diarrhea, or organ inflammation. Always discuss with your doctor any anticipated side effects based on the type of immunotherapy prescribed.
Radiofrequency ablation for cancer treatment has been used for many years for nerve-related chronic pain. Minor side effects of the procedure can include pain, temporary numbness or burning, pain at the injection site, and rarely, infection at the injection site.
Pain is the most common side effect and is often felt in the muscles around the area treated due to muscle spasms. The pain is usually temporary and not severe.
It is often the case that multiple treatment methods are needed for cancer. Your oncologist will discuss the best combination to treat your tumors. Every oncologist’s goal is to help you heal, improve, and give you a fighting chance against cancer.
When cancer treatment becomes more difficult
Patients with advanced cancer can run into difficulty with treatment due to insurance or other health service barriers. They are sometimes recommended to hospice though some doctors remain hopeful these patients, too, may have options available for them.
Not only does this encourage patients and families, but doctors and researchers in the field of cancer. As more patients show promise of healing, more research is conducted building upon current knowledge and treatment modalities.
Advanced stage cancer is no longer a diagnosis that means life is over. It is certainly a challenge for patients and providers, but we now have available solutions to give patients a longer and comfortable life. Improvements in the area of treating advanced cancer will only continue as healthcare and technology evolve.
Where Can I Find Additional Information on Advanced Cancer Treatment?
If you would like to know more about successful immunotherapy in Mexico and advanced cancer treatment options, you can read about them in Dr. Williams’ book: The Immunotherapy Revolution: The Best New Hope For Saving Cancer Patients Lives.
Williams Cancer Institute offers advanced cancer treatments, including radiofrequency ablation and immunotherapy. Located in Mexico City, Mexico, the clinic treats patients from the USA, China, Thailand, Qatar (Doha), the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and more.
If you or a loved one have more questions or need information about advanced treatment options including, immunotherapy for cancer, give us a call at Williams Cancer Institute.
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.