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The 3 main cancer treatments are surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Other types of treatments, such as hormonal therapy, biological therapy or stem cell transplant, may also be used in certain cases for some types of cancer. Cancer treatment is given by cancer specialists (oncologists). Some specialize in surgery, some in radiation therapy and others in chemotherapy (drugs). These doctors work with the person with cancer to decide on a treatment plan.
People with cancer are given individual treatment plans based on their:
Sometimes, 2 people with the same cancer may be given very different treatments.
Cancer treatment may be given for a number of reasons. Sometimes, the goal of treatment can change over time.
A cancer treatment plan is based on each person's unique situation.
Sometimes, only one type of treatment is all that is needed. This is called the main or primary treatment. In other cases, one type of treatment by itself may not work as well and a combination of treatments is used to more effectively control and treat the cancer.
When a combination of treatments is used, they may be given together or at different times, depending on the type or stage of cancer.
Treatment can be broadly divided into the following types of therapies:
For information on specific drugs, go to sources of drug information.
Side effects can occur with any type of treatment, but not everyone has them or experiences them in the same way. Side effects can occur during or after treatment. They may go away quickly or last for a long time.
Advances in cancer treatment and new ways of managing side effects have helped the outlook and quality of life for many people with cancer.
A clinical trial led by the Society’s NCIC Clinical Trials group found that men with prostate cancer who are treated with intermittent courses of hormone therapy live as long as those receiving continuous therapy.