Conventional Medical Treatments
Conventional medicine is the sort of medicine and treatment your doctor would usually use to treat your cancer. You may also hear this called orthodox medical treatment.
The following are general descriptions of treatments that may be used as part of a child’s treatment plan.
Surgery is the removal of the tumour, either cancerous or noncancerous, and surrounding tissue during an operation. Many children with a tumour will need surgery at some point during their treatment. A surgical oncologist is a doctor who specialises in treating a tumour using surgery.
The goal of surgery is to remove the entire tumour and the margin (tissue around the tumour), leaving a negative margin (no cancer in the healthy tissue). For most childhood tumours, there is microscopic tumour left after surgery, and then doctors will recommend chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or other treatments.
Side effects of surgery depend on the location and type of the tumour and whether it has metastasised.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells, usually by stopping the cancer cells’ ability to grow and divide. Chemotherapy is given by a paediatric oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children with cancer.
Systemic chemotherapy is delivered through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells throughout the body. Common ways to give chemotherapy include an intravenous (IV) tube placed into a vein, muscle, spinal fluid or under the skin using a needle, or in a pill or capsule that is swallowed (orally). A chemotherapy regimen (schedule) usually consists of a specific number of cycles given over a set period of time. A patient may receive one drug at a time or combinations of different drugs at the same time.
The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the individual and the dose used, but they can include fatigue, increased risk of infection, increased risk of bleeding, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. These side effects usually go away once treatment is finished.
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles such as photons to destroy cancer cells. A doctor who specializes in giving radiation therapy to treat cancer is called a radiation oncologist.
The most common type of radiation treatment is called external-beam radiation therapy, which is radiation given from a machine outside the body. When radiation treatment is given using implants, it is called internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy. A radiation therapy regimen usually consists of a specific number of treatments given over a set period of time.
Side effects from radiation therapy may include fatigue, mild skin reactions, nausea, and loose bowel movements, depending on the part of the body that is receiving radiation. Most side effects go away soon after treatment is finished.
Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is designed to boost the body’s natural defences to fight the cancer.
Immunotherapy uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function.
Cancer immunotherapy attempts to stimulate the immune system to reject or destroy tumours.
The efficacy of immunotherapy is enhanced by nearly 30% when combined with conventional cancer treatments.
There are a myriad of different immunotherapies that work in various ways to either boost the body’s immune system or train the immune system to attack cancer cells.
Examples of immunotherapy include cancer vaccines, Cellular Therapies, Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor (GM-CSF), monoclonal antibodies, Interleukins, and interferons.
A stem cell transplant is a medical procedure in which bone marrow that contains cancer is replaced by highly specialised cells, called hematopoietic stem cells, that develop into healthy bone marrow. Hematopoietic stem cells are blood-forming cells found both in the bloodstream and in the bone marrow.
Today, this procedure is more commonly called a stem cell transplant, rather than bone marrow transplant, because it is the stem cells in the blood that are typically being transplanted, not the actual bone marrow tissue.
There are two types of stem cell transplantation depending on the source of the replacement blood stem cells: allogeneic (ALLO) and autologous (AUTO).
ALLO uses donated stem cells, while AUTO uses the patient’s own stem cells. In both types, the goal is to destroy all of the cancer cells in the marrow, blood, and other parts of the body using high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy and then allow replacement blood stem cells to create healthy bone marrow.
This page is being updated as we can so please come back frequently to check new information
Please note that the Little Fighters Cancer Trust shares information regarding various types of cancer treatments on this blog merely for informational use. LFCT does not endorse or promote any specific cancer treatments – we believe that the public should be informed but that the option is theirs to take as to what treatments are to be used. Always consult your medical practitioner prior to taking any other medication, natural or otherwise.