Care and Treatments

A cancer diagnosis affects many parts of your life. You’ll likely feel both physical and emotional changes as you progress through your treatment. These changes may impact your daily life, but there are ways to cope, and the experts at Stormont Vail Health are here for you every step of the way.

Preparing for Your Treatment

Finding the right treatment to treat your cancer isn’t always easy. Depending on the type of cancer, you might have a very limited number of treatment options or you might have a variety. Your cancer care team here at Stormont Vail Health will create a treatment option that fits you. This care plan will depend on the type of cancer, the stage of the cancer, your overall health, your personal preferences and more.

Chemotherapy

When people hear cancer treatment, they often think of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill fast-growing cells in your body. There is a variety of chemotherapy drugs available and they can be used alone or in combination to treat different cancers.

Types of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy drugs come in many different forms including:

  • Infusions: The drugs are administered by inserting a tube with a needle into a vein in your arm or into a device in a vein in your chest.
  • Pills: Some chemotherapy drugs can be taken in pill or capsule form.
  • Shots: Just as you would receive a shot, chemotherapy drugs can be injected using a syringe and needle.
  • Creams: Creams or gels containing chemotherapy drugs can be applied directly to the skin to treat certain types of skin cancer.

Risk Factors

Common side effects of chemotherapy drugs include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of appetite/weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Mouth sores
  • Pain
  • Constipation
  • Bruising

Long-term side effects of chemotherapy may include:

  • Damage to lung tissue
  • Heart issues
  • Infertility
  • Kidney issues
  • Nerve damage
  • Risk of new cancer

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy uses a person’s own immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapy can boost or change how your immune system works so that it can find and attack cancer cells. If your cancer treatment plan includes immunotherapy, knowing how it works and what to expect can help you prepare for treatment.

What is Your Immune System

Your immune system protects your body from outside invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins (chemicals produced by microbes). It’s made up of different organs, cells, and proteins that work together to keep you healthy. Unfortunately, your immune system has a tougher time targeting cancer cells. This is due to the fact that cancer cells start as normal cells and the immune system doesn’t always recognize them as foreign.

Types of Immunotherapy

There are six types of immunotherapy:

Risk Factors

Side effects of immunotherapy vary depending on the type of immunotherapy you are receiving, as well as your overall health. Some common side effects include:

  • Skin reaction at the injection site, such as pain, redness, soreness
  • Flu-like symptoms:
  • Fever
  • Chill
  • Weakness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Infections

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses beams of intense energy to kill cancer cells. Most often, radiation uses X-rays however; protons or other types of energy can also be used.

Radiation therapy damages cells by destroying the genetic material that controls how cells grow and divide. While both healthy and cancerous cells are damaged by radiation therapy, the goal is to destroy as few normal, healthy cells as possible. Normal cells can often repair much of the damage caused by radiation.

Risk Factors

Radiation therapy side effects depend on which part of your body is being exposed to radiation and how much radiation is used. Most side effects are temporary, can be controlled and generally disappear over time once treatment has ended.

Some side effects include:

  • Any part of the body: Hair loss at treatment site, skin irritation at treatment site and fatigue
  • Head and neck: Dry mouth, thickened saliva, difficulty swallowing, sore throat, nausea, mouth sores, tooth decay and changes in food taste
  • Chest: Difficulty swallowing, cough and shortness of breath
  • Abdomen: Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Pelvis: Diarrhea, bladder irritation, frequent urination and sexual dysfunction

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Targeted Therapy

There are certain genes, proteins, and tissues that cause a cancer cell to grow. With targeted therapy, drugs can target those areas and stop them from working, ending cells’ ability to grow and divide.

In many cases, targeted therapy is used alongside chemotherapy. For people who have advanced colorectal cancer that can’t be cured, the combination of targeted therapy and chemotherapy can often help them live longer.

Types of Targeted Therapy

Many different targeted therapies have been approved for use in treating cancer. These include:

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors: Tumors require a blood supply to grow. Angiogenesis inhibitors block the growth of new blood vessels to tumors, preventing them from growing beyond a certain size.
  • Apoptosis Inducers: Through apoptosis, cancer cells undergo a process of controlled cell death. This is one of many methods the body uses to get rid of unneeded or abnormal cells.
  • Gene Expression Modulators: Gene expression modulators modify the function of proteins that play a role in controlling gene expression.
  • Hormone Therapies: Hormone therapies act by slowing or stopping the growth of hormone-sensitive tumors.
  • Immunotherapies: Immunotherapy triggers the immune system to destroy cancer cells.
  • Monoclonal Antibodies: Monoclonal antibodies that deliver toxic moleculescan cause the death of cancer cells specifically.
  • Signal Transduction Inhibitors: Signal transduction inhibitors block the activities of molecules that participate in signal transduction, the process by which a cell responds to signals from its surroundings.

Risk Factors

Targeted therapies are less toxic than traditional chemotherapy drugs because cancer cells are more dependent on the targets than normal cells. However, there are common side effects attributed to targeted therapy. These include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Liver problems — such as hepatitis and elevated liver enzymes
  • Skin issues — acneiform rash, dry skin, nail changes, etc.
  • Blood clotting
  • High blood pressure
  • GI issues

The Stormont Vail Difference

Good cancer care is not just about using the right medications. At Stormont Vail Health, we make sure your health care team provides you and your family with medical expertise and support. You will have access to our cancer specialists, support groups, social workers, and other services –– such as palliative medicine –– all integrated into your cancer care.

 

Our Cancer Care Location