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Types of Cancer Treatments and Medications: Comprehensive Overview of How They Work

Types of cancer treatments

Types of Cancer Treatments and Medications: Comprehensive Overview of How They Work

What are the types of cancer treatments or medications?

There are several types of cancer treatments and medications available. The choice of treatment depends on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the individual’s overall health.

When it comes to combating cancer, there is a wide range of treatments and medications available. Each treatment option and medication works in a unique way to target cancer cells and improve patient outcomes.

It’s important to note that the availability and appropriateness of these treatments may vary depending on the type and stage of cancer, as well as individual patient factors. Treatment decisions should be made in consultation with healthcare professionals.

Here are some common types of cancer treatments:


In this treatment, the tumor and surrounding tissue are removed through an operation. Surgery is often used to remove localized tumors and can be curative in some cases.

It is often one of the initial treatments for solid tumors. Examples include:

Cancer Surgery (Operation): Understanding Types, Risks, and Recovery

Radiation Therapy (Radioteraphy):

This treatment uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors. It can be delivered externally (external beam radiation) or internally (brachytherapy) depending on the type and location of cancer.

It can be administered externally or internally. Examples include:

Radiotherapy | Radiation Therapy for Cancer | How Does It Work?


Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells or stop their growth. It can be administered orally or through intravenous infusion. Chemotherapy is often used for cancers that have spread or are difficult to treat with surgery alone.

It can be administered orally, through injections, or intravenously. Examples include:

Chemotherapy Drugs Combinations | Chemo Medications: Understanding Medications for Cancer Treatment


Immunotherapy works by boosting the body’s immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. It includes treatments such as immune checkpoint inhibitors, CAR-T cell therapy, and cancer vaccines.

This treatment enhances the body’s immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. It includes various approaches, such as:

Immunotherapy Cancer Treatment | Types, To receive, Side effects

Targeted Therapy:

Targeted therapy uses drugs that specifically target cancer cells based on their genetic or molecular characteristics. These drugs interfere with specific molecules involved in cancer growth and progression.

Targeted therapy utilizes drugs that specifically target the unique characteristics of cancer cells, such as specific genes or proteins. Examples include:

Targeted therapy for cancer patients | Types, Receiving treatment, Side effects

Hormone Therapy:

Hormone therapy is used for cancers that are hormone-dependent, such as breast and prostate cancer. It aims to block the effects of hormones or reduce their production to prevent cancer growth.

Hormone therapy is used to block the effects of hormones that promote the growth of certain hormone-sensitive cancers. Examples include:

Precision Medicine:

Precision medicine involves using genetic testing to identify specific mutations or biomarkers in a person’s tumor. Based on these results, targeted therapies or immunotherapies can be tailored to the individual’s unique cancer characteristics.

Precision medicine uses genetic testing and molecular profiling to identify specific genetic alterations in a patient’s cancer cells. Examples include:

It’s important to note that treatment plans are individualized, and a combination of different treatments may be used depending on the specific situation. The choice of treatment is made by a healthcare team consisting of oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, and other specialists who consider various factors to determine the most suitable treatment approach for each patient.

Stem Cell Transplantation:

This procedure involves replacing damaged bone marrow with healthy stem cells to restore the body’s ability to produce blood cells. It is commonly used to treat certain types of blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma.

Also known as bone marrow transplantation, this procedure replaces damaged or diseased bone marrow with healthy stem cells. Examples include:

Angiogenesis Inhibitors:

These medications work by blocking the formation of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow. By cutting off the blood supply to the tumor, angiogenesis inhibitors can help shrink or slow the growth of cancer cells.

Angiogenesis inhibitors are medications that work by blocking the formation of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow.

By cutting off the blood supply to the tumor, these inhibitors can help shrink or slow the growth of cancer cells.

Examples of angiogenesis inhibitors include bevacizumab (Avastin) used in the treatment of colorectal, lung, and kidney cancers, and sorafenib (Nexavar) used for advanced liver and kidney cancers.

Gene Therapy:

Gene therapy involves modifying a person’s genes to treat or prevent cancer. It can be done by inserting genes into cancer cells to make them more susceptible to treatment or by modifying the patient’s immune cells to better recognize and attack cancer cells.

One example is CAR-T cell therapy, where a patient’s immune cells are genetically engineered to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) that target and kill cancer cells, as seen in the treatment of certain types of leukemia and lymphoma.

Photodynamic Therapy:

This treatment uses drugs called photosensitizers, which become active when exposed to light of a specific wavelength. The activated drugs destroy cancer cells when the light is directed at the tumor, sparing healthy surrounding tissue.

This therapy spares healthy surrounding tissue. An example of a photosensitizer used in photodynamic therapy is porfimer sodium (Photofrin), employed in the treatment of esophageal, lung, and certain skin cancers.


Cryotherapy involves freezing cancer cells to destroy them. It is commonly used to treat skin cancer and certain localized tumors. Cryotherapy can be performed using a probe inserted into the tumor or by applying a cold spray directly to the skin.

An example of cryotherapy is the treatment of prostate cancer using a probe inserted through the rectum to freeze and destroy cancerous tissue.

Radiofrequency Ablation:

Radiofrequency ablation uses high-frequency energy to heat and destroy cancer cells. It is often used for tumors that are small in size and in specific locations, such as the liver, lungs, or kidneys.

During the procedure, a needle-like electrode is inserted into the tumor, and radiofrequency energy is delivered to heat and destroy the cancer cells.

Radiofrequency ablation can be an alternative to surgery for certain liver and lung tumors.

Immunomodulatory Drugs:

These medications help stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. They can enhance the body’s natural immune response and improve the effectiveness of other cancer treatments.

Examples of immunomodulatory drugs include pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo), which are immune checkpoint inhibitors used to treat various types of cancer, including melanoma, lung cancer, and kidney cancer.

Palliative Care:

Palliative care focuses on providing relief from symptoms and improving the quality of life for individuals with advanced or terminal cancer. It addresses pain management, psychological support, and other supportive care services.

It involves a multidisciplinary approach to address physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Palliative care aims to manage pain and other distressing symptoms, provide emotional support, and assist with decision-making. It can be provided alongside curative treatments and is not limited to end-of-life care. Palliative care teams may include doctors, nurses, social workers, and other specialists who work together to provide comprehensive support. The goal is to improve the overall well-being of the patient and their family.

Clinical Trials:

Participation in clinical trials allows patients to access innovative treatments and medications that are still being researched. Examples include trials for new drug combinations, immunotherapies, and gene therapies.

Clinical trials are research studies conducted to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new treatments, medications, or procedures. They provide an opportunity for patients to access innovative approaches that are still being investigated. Clinical trials are designed to gather data and determine if a new treatment is better than existing options or if it offers benefits for specific patient populations. Participation in clinical trials is voluntary and can be an important contribution to advancing cancer care. Examples of clinical trials include testing new drug combinations, evaluating novel immunotherapies, or investigating gene therapies. Trials are conducted following rigorous protocols and ethical guidelines to ensure patient safety and scientific validity.

It’s important for patients to discuss the potential benefits and risks of participating in a clinical trial with their healthcare team. Clinical trials often have specific eligibility criteria, and participation may vary depending on the stage and type of cancer. Healthcare professionals can provide detailed information about ongoing trials and help patients make informed decisions about their treatment options.

Reminder for types of cancer treatments

It’s important to remember that the choice of treatment depends on the specific type and stage of cancer, as well as individual factors. Treatment plans are developed in collaboration with healthcare professionals, taking into account the patient’s overall health, preferences, and goals of treatment.

Each type of treatment has its own benefits, considerations, and potential side effects. The choice of treatment depends on factors such as the type and stage of cancer, the patient’s overall health, and the goals of treatment. It is important for individuals to consult with their healthcare team to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for their specific situation.

Photo credit: orzalaga via Pixabay

Information: Cleverly Smart is not a substitute for a doctor. Always consult a doctor to treat your health condition.

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