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Everything You Need to Know About Cancer Treatments

Medically reviewed by John Paul Abrina, MD · Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

Written by Kip Soliva · Updated Feb 02, 2022

Everything You Need to Know About Cancer Treatments

What are the different types of cancer treatment?

Cancer treatment can vary from patient to patient. Some patients only need one treatment, whereas others need a combination of treatments.

Why is Cancer Treatment Done?

Ideally, cancer treatment will cure your cancer. However, the goal of treatment can vary based on your case. Cancer treatments can be used as:

  • Primary treatment

    Primary treatment is meant to completely kill all cancer cells or remove all of the cancer.

  • Adjuvant treatment

    Adjuvant treatment is meant to kill any leftover cancer cells after primary treatment.

  • Palliative treatment

    These kinds of treatments help relieve symptoms of the cancer or side effects of treatment.

Here is a quick look at some cancer treatments and how they work.

What are the Different Types of Cancer Treatment?


A very common way to treat cancer is through surgery. It is done to remove a part of the body to treat or diagnose cancer.

You may get surgery to remove certain tissues to prevent the cancer from spreading. A doctor may also perform surgery to remove part or all of a tumor to diagnose whether it is cancerous or not. It also helps a doctor learn how advanced the cancer is (often called staging).

It can also be done as primary treatment. If the cancer has not spread and is localized, it could potentially cure your cancer.

In some cases, surgery may only decrease the size of the tumor to make other different types of cancer treatment, like radiation, more effective. It can also help relieve side effects or symptoms.

Surgery can address nearly all kinds of cancer. However, it depends on the severity of your case and how dangerous it would be.

Your surgery can be either open or minimally invasive. A surgeon uses one big cut to perform the procedure whereas a few small incisions will be made for a minimally invasive surgery.

There are many kinds of cancer surgery, but some common kinds include:


This procedure kills cancer cells with high-frequency electrical currents. Commonly used on the skin or in the mouth.

Laparoscopic Surgery

To avoid making big incisions, a doctor will use a laparoscope to get a look into the body. A doctor will make a few small incisions, then use the laparoscope and other surgical tools to see inside the body.

This type is often done for symptom relief, treatment, and diagnosing cancer. It is a minimally invasive surgery.


A doctor will use very cold materials like a cold probe or liquid nitrogen spray to freeze, then destroy cancer cells or potentially cancerous cells. For instance, it can destroy irregular cells in the cervix that could cause cervical cancer.

Possible side effects of surgery include pain, bleeding, infection, blood clots, loss of organ function, etc. The side effects and risks will vary for each surgery and your specific case.

Radiation Therapy

This treatment uses intense energy beams to destroy cancer cells. It usually uses x-rays, though other sources, like protons may be used.

Different kinds of radiation therapy can address different kinds of cancer. For instance, brachytherapy is often for cancers in the eye, prostate, head and neck, cervix, and breast.

Ideally, the cancer would immediately respond to treatment. However, it may take a long time or your cancer may never respond to radiation therapy.

You may get immediate side effects or not see them until months after starting treatment. The side effects vary based on what part of the body is getting treatment. Common side effects include:

  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth


Of the different types of cancer treatment, chemotherapy is the most familiar.

This is a drug treatment where powerful chemicals kill fast-growing cells. Some people may only get chemotherapy as their treatment, or get it with other treatments.

Chemotherapy can treat many kinds of cancer and there are many kinds of chemotherapeutic drugs. Chemotherapy can also ease symptoms and prepare you for other kinds of treatments.

The kind of chemotherapy you get will depend on your case. There are different formulations for you to get the drugs as well, such as pills, cream, infusions, etc.

Chemotherapy can be an effective way to treat many kinds of cancer. However, there are side effects, which can be mild, but some can lead to more serious complications.

Common side effects include easily bruising, vomiting, nausea, hair loss, pain, etc. Late-developing and long-lasting side effects include kidney problems, infertility, risk of getting a second cancer, etc.

Stem Cell Transplant

Stem cell transplants are often for people who have previously received some form of treatment. It helps restore the blood-forming stem cells, as these can greatly decrease from high doses of radiation or chemotherapy.

Keep in mind that this treatment does not usually work against the cancer directly. Instead, they help you recover your ability to produce stem cells after treatment with very high doses of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or both.

However, stem cell transplants may directly work against certain kinds of cancers, such as multiple myelomas and some types of leukemia. This happens because of an effect called graft-versus-tumor that can occur after allogeneic transplants (wherein the stem cells come from another person). Graft-versus-tumor occurs when white blood cells from your donor (the graft) attack any cancer cells that remain in your body (the tumor) after high-dose treatments. This effect improves the success of the treatments.

There are three kinds of stem cell transplants, which are:

  • Autologous

    The stem cells will come from you

    • Syngeneic

      The stem cells come from an identical twin

    • Allogeneic

      The stem cells come from a different person

    The high doses of cancer treatment that you have before a stem cell transplant can cause problems such as bleeding and an increased risk of infection. Talk with your doctor or nurse about other side effects that you might have and how serious they might be.

    Key Takeaways

    Keep in mind that the different types of cancer treatment above are common. You may have more or less options depending on what cancer you have and its severity.

    Learn more about Cancer here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    John Paul Abrina, MD

    Oncology · Davao Doctors Hospital

    Written by Kip Soliva · Updated Feb 02, 2022

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