Frequently Asked Questions
What are the different treatments available for cancer?
Usually the treatment options include surgery, drug therapy such as chemotherapy and radiation. Sometimes one of the three treatment modality alone is sufficient but more often a combination approach including more than one of these options is necessary to cure the cancer and prevent it from coming back.
How do doctors decide what treatment I need?
Treatment options are individualized and they depend on the type and extent of the cancer, biologic features of the cancer and overall health status of patient.
What is chemotherapy? How does it work? How is chemotherapy given?
Chemotherapy is anticancer drug therapy that is used by medical oncologists to treat and cure cancer. It usually works by interfering the with the cancer cells ability to grow and reproduce. It is either used alone or in combination with surgery and/or radiation for treatment of certain cancers. Sometimes a combination of chemotherapy is used to treat certain cancers. Sometimes different chemotherapy drugs are given in specific orders in certain cancers.
Why do I need chemotherapy if the cancer is taken out by surgery?
Chemotherapy and other drug therapies go throughout the body and kill cancer cells that may have escaped surgery or have escaped to distant sites in the body. In carefully selected cases where the cancer was very early stage surgery alone is sufficient and additional chemotherapy is not necessary.
Can I take a pill instead of intravenous chemotherapy?
The choice of chemotherapy is based on the most effective drug for a particular cancer. In most situation the most effective drugs to treat cancer comes only in intravenous form. Pill form of chemotherapy is available for certain cancers and can be used to substitute some but not all intravenous chemotherapy. Many biologic medications are available in pill forms that can be used in different cancers like lung, liver, and kidney cancer. More often pills are used as a hormonal treatment for certain hormone responsive cancers like breast cancer and prostate cancer.
How do I know if chemotherapy is working?
Your doctor will be examining you periodically during treatment along with blood tests and other tests like CT scan, PET scan etc. to evaluate response of treatment.
What are the side effects of chemotherapy?
Different chemotherapy medications have different side effects and they are usually explained to you by your healthcare provider prior to starting the treatment. You should also receive patient education material about the medications you are about to start.
Can I take dietary supplements and natural products while I am on chemotherapy?
You should inform your doctor prior to starting or continuing any supplement that you are taking as many of these products have effect on the liver and kidney which may affect clearing of chemotherapy from the body. In most cases supplemental multivitamins are harmless and can be taken while being on chemotherapy after discussion with your doctor.
What are the different types of clinical trials?
- Treatment trials test new treatments (like a new cancer drug, new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy, new combinations of treatments, or new methods such as gene therapy).
- Cancer control trials look at measures to combat side-effects of cancer treatment.
- Prevention trials test new approaches, such as medicines, vitamins, minerals, or other supplements that doctors believe may lower the risk of a certain type of cancer. These trials look for the best way to prevent cancer in people who have never had cancer or to prevent cancer from coming back or a new cancer occurring in people who have already had cancer.
- Screening trials test the best way to find cancer, especially in its early stages.
- Quality of Life trials (also called Supportive Care trials) explore ways to improve comfort and quality of life for cancer patients.
Why are there clinical trials?
A clinical trial is one of the final stages of a long and careful cancer research process. Studies are done with cancer patients to find out whether promising approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment are safe and effective.