Most people think cancer is an incurable disease. The truth is, with the improvement of technology, the treatment of cancer has evolved a lot in order to increase its effectiveness, stability, precision and survivability. There are actually handfuls of choices to treat cancers. To select the best treatment method, patients’ conditions; the location, staging, and types of tumor have to be taken into considerations. Treatment goal includes curative intent and palliative intent.

Surgery is used to remove primary tumors that situated in our organs. Theoretically, cancer can be cured if the tumor or the whole organ is entirely removed. However, if the cancer has metastasized to other sites in the body, surgery alone cannot cure the disease. Usually it is combined with chemotherapy or radiotherapy to minimize the chance of recurrence.

Chemotherapy is a treatment using drugs to destroy cancer cells. It mainly targets on rapidly dividing cells and kill them by disturbing their cells’ replication. However, the disadvantage of chemotherapy is that the normal cells got destroyed as well, thus causing a lot of side effects.

Radiotherapy uses ionizing radiation to destroy the genetic materials on rapidly dividing cells; its effect is localized and more confined so as to decrease the damage to the healthy cells nearby. Although some normal cells will still be affected, most of them can recover after a period of them.

Targeted therapy
Targeted therapy was first available in the late 1990s; it is a new technology of combating cancers. Like chemotherapy, targeted therapy is also a treatment using drugs. The difference between chemotherapy and targeted therapy is that they kill the cancer cells differently. Chemotherapy kills all rapidly dividing cells while targeted therapy targets on cancer cells only, destroying them by deregulating their proteins. In other words, it works more specifically with fewer side effects.

Immunotherapy is a treatment to boost one’s immune system to fight against disease. It works by either stimulating people’s own immune system to work harder to attack cancer cells; or giving components like system proteins to immune system. However, Immunotherapy is still at testing stage, thus it is not a widely used treatment.

Side Effect of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is commonly used to treat cancers. They mainly interfere with the replication and other normal functions of cancer cells, causing cell death and tumor shrinkage. However, both healthy and malignant cells will be affected by chemotherapy, causing a large sum of side effects and discomfort to patients during the process. Normal cells have a greater ability to repair minor damages than malignant cells, however, rapidly dividing cells like bone marrow, gastrointestinal mucosa and hair follicles are affected in a larger extent and may not be able to recover.

The main focus of this booklet is to highlight the side effects our body will experience during chemotherapy, from general to specific. Also it suggests how people can relieve the discomfort brought by those side effects.