Is Immunotherapy for Cancer Safe?

Your immune system does more than simply fight colds and flu. Throughout your life, your natural defenses seek out and destroy anything that is not recognized as part of the self including all kinds of germs and cancer cells before they have a chance to cause disease. Your immune system manages to destroy most rogue cells before they form a full-fledged tumor, but some of them get by your defenses. If you already have cancer, your immune system will still be working hard to keep your disease in check, but it probably can’t do the job on its own.

In recent years, more and more cancer patients have received treatments designed to give the immune system the upper hand against cancer. This approach called immunotherapy or biological therapy isn’t as widely used as radiation or chemotherapy. For most types of cancer, immunotherapy hasn’t been shown to be more effective than these standard treatments. And like the others, it can cause its own unpleasant side effects.

But immunotherapy can still be a powerful tool, either on its own or combined with chemotherapy or radiation. For certain patients including some in the advanced stages of skin cancer or kidney cancer immunotherapy can offer more than the conventional options, even the possibility of a complete cure. For others, it’s an additional, less toxic method of controlling their disease or reducing side effects from other treatments. In the years to come, as scientists learn more about the immune system, immunotherapy promises to become even more common and more effective.

What does it involve?

Immunotherapy often involves adding more immune cells, immune signaling molecules, or other biochemicals to the body. Unlike chemotherapy, which affects all fast-growing cells, immune treatments target specific processes or types of cells and should have a low impact on healthy tissues. The side effects depend on the particular biological agent used. Some have very mild side effects, while others cause serious problems.

The delivery will also depend on the agent used as well as your treatment plan. Some immunotherapy treatments are in the form of pills or shots you can take at home, while others are delivered intravenously (IV) in the hospital or clinic. Immunotherapy may be administered a couple of times a day or as seldom as every month or two.

What are the different types of immunotherapy?

There are two major types of immunotherapy: Treatments that add new disease-fighting cells to your body (T cells) and treatments that add other elements to your own immune system (such as antibodies, cytokines, and others). Many immunotherapy agents are experimental or investigational and are only available by enrolling in clinical trials.

How will my doctor decide if immunotherapy is right for me?

Not all patients or all cancers are good candidates for immunotherapy. At this time, the approach isn’t used very often for patients with cancer of the prostate or ovaries. And if your cancer was caught at an early stage or is responding well to other treatments, immunotherapy may simply not be necessary.

In certain cases, however, immunotherapy does seem to be more effective when used for some smaller, earlier-stage cancers. If your doctor does recommend immunotherapy, you will be getting a cutting-edge treatment that could make a big difference.

Call Us now to know if you are a candidate.

References

American Cancer Society. What is immunotherapy? October 2010.
American Cancer Society. Types of immunotherapy. October 2010.
National Cancer Institute. Biological therapies for cancer. Questions and answers. 2006.

How to Improve Your Health After Cancer Treatment and Beyond

No doubt, cancer feels like an insurmountable obstacle. But it can be overcome and perhaps you’re one who is or has done so.

More than 15.5 million Americans with cancer in their history are alive today, according to 2016 data. And that number is projected to surpass 20 million by 2026. 1

What’s next?

As a cancer survivor, you face the opportunity to improve and sustain your health post treatment. Though you’re well some side-effects could remain.

But you can take a proactive approach.

cancer survivors should feel empowered to be their own advocates by proactively discussing their health questions and concerns with their physicians. They can also take control of their health by maintaining a healthy weight and diet, avoiding tobacco products, increasing physical activity, and reducing sun exposure. 2

Strategy for a healthy lifestyle

Following cancer treatment you’re eager to restore your health. This requires a strategy so you can enjoy your new life and renewed perspective.

There’s no need to to complicate the process. In fact, your entire strategy is lifestyle focused.

You’re a survivor. Now’s the time to take care of yourself and enjoy life.

Keep moving

If you heard the word, exercise, you might be tempted to skip this point. That said, an exercise routine (that focuses on movement) can improve your recovery and renewal.

You’ll experience:

  • Increased strength and stamina
  • Less depression, anxiety, and fatigue
  • Better mood
  • Improved confidence and self-esteem
  • Reduced pain
  • Quality sleep

And

Start small. Add more movement to your lifestyle.

  • Take the stairs
  • Park further from your destination to add walking distance
  • Walk daily
  • Increase your pace during household tasks (cleaning, yard work, etc.)
  • Stand up frequently after sitting periods

The American Cancer Society recommends adult cancer survivors exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, including strength training at least two days a week. 3

Realty is you won’t always feel like exercising. Give yourself a break on occasion especially if you still experience post treatment fatigue.

After a break, return to your exercise routine. And remember that adequate rest and recovery matter to a healthy lifestyle.

Speaking of rest

Push pause

Routine restfulness will add margin to your recovery and renewal. Start with your sleep routine.

Sleep issues are common during and after cancer treatment. Your body has experienced changes, treatment side-effects, and stress.

Quality sleep is vital to recovery and lifestyle renewal.

  • Sleep pauses your mind and body
  • Sleep recharges your cognitive (thinking) skills
  • Sleep improves your hormonal functions
  • Sleep lowers your blood pressure

Bottom line: sleep improves your overall sense of well-being.

You can optimize your sleep quality by:

  • Reducing or eliminating your caffeine intake a few hours before bedtime
  • Establishing a regular sleep schedule (bedtime and awakening hours)
  • Controlling your screen time (devices, etc) prior to bedtime
  • Maintaining a peaceful, quiet bedroom
  • Discussing any sleep related issues with your physician

Manage stress

Stressful situations are not easy to avoid. But you can reduce and manage the stress you allow to impact your life.

You might find that surviving cancer has stressed your physical, emotional, and social resources. Applying specific coping strategies can help you deal with stress and its effect on your life including depression and anxiety.

Manage your stress with:

  • Relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness techniques
  • Counseling and support groups
  • Medication that treats anxiety or depression
  • Exercise
  • Replenishing social interactions with family and friends
  • Lifestyle moderations

The key to each of these health enhancing strategies is finding what works for you and doing it! You don’t need to do a lifestyle overhaul. Instead, take small steps to improve your daily routine in ways that renews your health and well-being.

Simple wellness strategies can produce long-lasting results. And remember you’re a survivor!

Contact us for more information about improving your health and lifestyle after cancer treatment.

  1. https://www.cancertodaymag.org/Pages/Winter2018-2019/Improving-Health-After-Treatment.aspx ↩
  2. https://www.cancertodaymag.org/Pages/Winter2018-2019/Improving-Health-After-Treatment.aspx ↩
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/in-depth/cancer-survivor/art-20044015 ↩

How Cancer Affects Your Immune System and What to Do About It

It’s perhaps your biggest ally in helping your body fight disease. And understanding how your immune system joins forces with cancer treatment can give you a positive advantage.

Basically, your immune system targets disease and infection. It detects and destroys anything it sees as a threat.

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Parasites

And

  • Unhealthy cells including cancer cells!

The question perhaps you and everyone asks

Having a strong immune system should reduce your body’s vulnerability to illness and disease, right? So why do you still get sick?

Or receive a cancer diagnosis?

Your body’s immune system “highway”

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and tissues. It collects and transports excess fluids (including some fats) from other tissues throughout your body. It then provides them access to your bloodstream.

There’s a close connection between your lymphatic system and your immune system.

Many of the disease-fighting cells of the immune system: Begin in the bone marrow. Mature in the thymus. Are stored in strategic locations. Use the lymphatic “highway” system to travel through the body, and along with the lymph nodes and spleen filter out harmful materials and germs. An immune response occurs when the immune system is activated and responds. This can occur when a foreign invader is detected.1

How cancer takes advantage of your immune system

Theories abound. One is that your immune system attacks cells it views as foreign. And cancer cells start out as normal (looking) cells.

Any changes the cancer cell makes within can still appear normal to your immune system. The mutation can occur, the cells can grow and multiply, and no attack is launched to destroy them.

Cancer cells can turn off your body’s natural immune response and suppress the activity of local immune cells (which protect a specific organ or other part of the body). Within the tumor, the cancer cells can create an environment that interferes with the effectiveness of the immune response. 2

There are multiple layers to the somewhat covert attack of cancer cells on your body’s immune system. This makes it all the more necessary that you give yourself an advantage when receiving a cancer diagnosis.

A counter-attack on cancer

The ability of cancer to hide from your body’s natural, disease-fighting immune system calls for new strategies. Immunotherapy helps your immune system by strengthening or restoring its ability to fight cancer.

Immunotherapy

  • Stops cancer from spreading (metastasizing)
  • Increases your immune system’s cancer-killing efficiency
  • Reduces the speed or progress of cancer’s growth
  • Delivers therapies directly into cancer cells

Questions about immunotherapy and its unique relationship with your body’s immune system are important to your cancer fight. We’re experienced and prepared to provide you the answers you need about this unique and effective cancer treatment.

Contact us to discover how to give your immune system an advantage following a cancer diagnosis. Schedule a consultation to discuss immunotherapy.

  1. https://www.roswellpark.org/cancertalk/201809/if-your-immune-system-protects-you-why-do-you-still-get-sick
  2. https://www.roswellpark.org/cancertalk/201810/activating-your-immune-system-against-cancer

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