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How Is Cancer Treated? Here Are Multiple Treatment Options

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There are several common treatments for cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and others, as well as specialized treatment procedures and techniques.


Surgery can be used to prevent, diagnose, stage and treat cancer. Curative surgery is a treatment done when cancer is found in only one part of the body, increasing the chance that all cancer can be removed.

Debulking surgery is another treatment used to remove some, but not all, cancer. This treatment is a good option when trying to avoid causing damage to nearby organs or tissues.

Another type of surgery used to treat discomfort or disability by advanced cancer is palliative surgery. This treatment type helps people feel better but is not intended to treat or cure cancer.


Drugs used in chemotherapy target cells at different phases while developing new cells. Since cancer cells usually form quicker than healthy cells, they make good targets for chemotherapy drugs. However, these drugs can’t determine between cancerous and normal cells, so some normal cells are also killed.

There is a special type of chemotherapy called targeted therapy, in which drugs can better tell the difference between normal and cancer cells. This therapy often causes side effects different from normal chemotherapy.

The main goals of chemotherapy are corrective intent and palliation, which means to lessen, soothe or relieve. Chemotherapy is used to destroy cancer. If a cure is not possible, palliative chemotherapy is used with advanced-stage cancers to help the patient feel more comfortable.

Radiation therapy

Other common names for this therapy are radiotherapy, irradiation and X-ray therapy. This treatment uses high-energy particles or waves to make small breaks in the DNA inside cells, and this break stops the cancer cells from continuing to grow and divide. Like chemo, radiation therapy can cure, shrink and treat symptoms caused by advanced-stage cancer.

A difference between radiation therapy and chemotherapy is that while chemotherapy exposes the entire body to cancer-fighting treatment, radiation therapy is used only on the part of the body with cancer cells.


This type of cancer treatment uses part of a person’s immune system to fight cancer. It can stimulate the body’s immune system or promote it to attack cancer cells. Sometimes a person will be given immune system components like artificial immune system proteins to help this boost.

Some types of immunotherapies are also called biologic therapy or biotherapy. Immunotherapy continues to be studied and developed, works better for some types of cancer than others and can be combined with another treatment type.

Other techniques and procedures

There are several more ways cancer can be treated. Stem cell transplant, hyperthermia, photodynamic therapy, blood transfusion, donation and laser treatment can be used to fight or manage cancer.

Ochsner is dedicated to cancer research and new cancer treatment. Learn more about our innovative approach.

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