17. PTC Cancer Life Phases: Treatment

17. PTC Cancer Life Phases: Treatment

Ok, you understand the higher risk for cancer that an organ transplant recipient has, you know what to LOOK for by way of symptoms and testing especially for the type of organ transplant you received, so once DIAGNOSED, what TREATMENT options by cancer type are available?

After a cancer diagnosis — whether it's your own or that of a loved one — the right information can be one of your most powerful weapons. Here's what you need to know about cancer treatment and management

 Doctors will help figure out with you what the best treatment is for you. For each type of cancer, there are lots of different ways that it might be treated, depending on things about you and things about your cancer like how far along it is. It can be overwhelming to decide which treatment to go with, if you have options. Some things to consider according to the American Cancer Society are your age and how long you expect to live, other health conditions you have and how that matters for risk or how well the treatment will work, the stage of your cancer, if surgery will remove the cancer, the chances that the treatment will cure cancer or if it will help with symptoms, and your feelings about the side effects of that treatment. Some people have also said that even though the following things don’t actually help to treat their cancer, they might help cope with the experience: art therapy, physical activity when possible, meditation, music therapy, acupuncture and massage.


Cancer in the simplest terms is the abnormal growth of cells somewhere in the body. Each year, more than a million people receive a cancer diagnosis, and the most common types of cancer include skin cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer. In addition to the three major types of cancer treatment — surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy — researchers are working to find new and more effective ways of fighting cancer. Some cancers can't be prevented, but other types can be avoided by living a healthy lifestyle.

While surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are still the first-line treatments for most cancers, there are also new and emerging approaches. When you are learning about cancer and evaluating what cancer treatment to undergo, it's important to understand your options and the benefits and risks that each offers.  Generally, cancer patients receive one of three types of cancer treatment: surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. It's also possible to receive a combination of any of those three types, in hopes of increasing the odds of getting rid of the cancer cells.

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Treatment Considerations

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Cancer treatment options: Surgery pro & cons

If the tumor is large and easy to remove, surgical treatment might be the best option. The decision to cut is based on the type of cancer, its stage (how far it's spread), and where the tumor is located. Surgery can be effective at removing a single mass or tumor, but a surgeon can’t remove cancer that has spread and affected multiple areas of the body. Another consideration: It can also take time to heal from a large incision following surgery, and there are the usual surgical risks of excessive bleeding and infection.

Cancer treatment options: Chemotherapy pro & cons

Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs that destroy cancer cells. While it is a very effective method of ridding the body of cancer — particularly types of cancer that have spread to more than one location — there are side effects to deal with because healthy cells are also damaged during this form of cancer treatment.

Cancer treatment options: Radiation pro & cons

Radiation, another method used to destroy cancer cells, can be administered from outside the body (external beam radiation) or within the body (brachytherapy). Radiation can be delivered as streams of energy from X-rays and gamma rays, or can consist of energy from charged particles, such as proton beam radiation. Radiation is not a good option for all types of cancer; it's best for a single tumor or mass. With radiation, immediate side effects tend to be less severe than those of chemotherapy.

Cancer treatment options: Other approaches

Not everyone benefits from the most well-known forms of cancer treatment. For some types of cancer, other, less commonly used methods may be most effective. These include:

  • Biological therapy. Also called immunotherapy, this type of cancer treatment uses drugs that don't directly attack cancer cells, but instead work to promote the body's natural immune response against the cancer cells. These drugs make the body better able to defend themselves and fight cancer. Right now, the biggest drawback is that biological therapy seems most effective against cancers that are still small and in the earlier stages.
  • Hormone therapy. The hormones estrogen and testosterone can promote the growth of tumors in the breast and prostate, respectively. To fight these types of cancer, drugs that inhibit the effects of those hormones may be given to slow tumor growth. Hormone therapy is only used to treat breast or prostate cancer, and only slows down progression; additional treatment is needed to kill the tumor.
  • Photodynamic therapy. This cancer treatment uses light and a drug that makes cancer cells react when exposed to the light. The drug, called a photosensitizing agent, is administered and absorbed by the cells. Once the cells are exposed to light, the drug inside them reacts with oxygen, forming a chemical that destroys the cancer cells. This type of cancer treatment doesn't pose long-term side effects, offers targeted treatment that doesn't affect the rest of the body, and doesn't cause scarring. However, its use is limited because it is only effective in areas that can be exposed to light, not those deep within the body.

There are many other types of cancer treatments that are available or still being researched. Options include targeted therapy, gene therapy, heat therapy, laser therapy, stem cell transplantation, and angiogenesis inhibitor therapy, which cuts off the blood supply to tumors.

Only you and your doctor can determine the best possible cancer treatment for you. As an educated and informed patient, you can take an active role in deciding on your cancer treatment and understanding what that treatment will be like for you.

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Cancer treatment by cancer type . . .

Start here with the treatment of the most common post-transplant cancer: skin cancer

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Click the kidney icon below to learn about the treatment of post-transplant kidney cancer
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Click the liver icon below to learn about the treatment of post-transplant liver cancer

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Click PTLD/blood icon below to learn about the treatment of post-transplant blood & lymphoma/PTLD cancers
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Cancer Conditions

Cancer Basics

Cancer is often feared and misunderstood, and there are many misconceptions about this disease. But education is the best defense, so don't believe the common cancer myths. Although signs vary among the different types of cancer, cancer symptoms can include pain, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. Depending on your cancer stage, you and your treatment team will come up with a cancer treatment plan that's right for you. You may also be interested in enrolling in a cancer clinical trial, which can offer access to newer and more experimental therapies.

Planning and Preparing 

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Facing cancer is a difficult experience. Knowing what to expect and understanding how to navigate this journey can help make this stressful time easier. There are actions you can take at every step of the journey that may help you feel more in control of your health. Use these treatment tips offered by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), for before, during and after cancer treatment below.

Click here to link to the full AICR article.

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    DISCLAIMER: The content of this TRIO post-transplant cancer Web site is not influenced by sponsors. The site is designed primarily for use by transplant recipients and their supporters. The information contained herein should NOT be used as a substitute for the advice of an appropriately qualified and licensed physician or other health care provider. The information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only. In no way should it be considered as offering medical advice. Please check with your transplant team or a physician skilled in cancer and your organ type if you suspect you are ill.