Is Immunotherapy Cancer Treatment for Me? | Cancer Champions
Immunotherapy Cancer Treatment

Immunotherapy Cancer Treatment

Are you familiar with immunotherapy cancer treatment? If not, don’t worry. Most people associate cancer treatment with chemotherapy and its side effects, which have been around since the 1940s. However, there are many types of cancer treatments available. While chemotherapy is still widely used, the best cancer treatment for you depends on several factors:

  • Type of cancer
  • Stage at diagnosis
  • Location of cancer

Unsure which one is right for you? If so, you’re in the right place. Our qualified practitioners are revealing five of the most common cancer treatments in today’s blog post. Stay tuned to discover which one(s) is right for you. 

How Is Cancer Treated? 

So, how is cancer treated? Well, the best type of cancer treatment for you depends on your individual diagnosis and circumstances. Additionally, some people need just one type of treatment, and others require a combination of several treatments.  

Below are the 5 main types of cancer treatment:  

  • Surgery 
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation 
  • Immunotherapy cancer treatment 
  • Targeted Therapy 

Is Surgery For Me?

If you have cancer, you might get surgery to: 

  • Remove the cancer 
  • “Debulk” or reduce the amount of tumor
  • Relieve the pain or pressure resulting from a tumor

The best chance for a curative surgery occurs when a “solid” tumor is contained in one area (aka “ localized”) and removed entirely. Those are best-case scenarios, but surgery isn’t an option in every case (like with leukemia). 

Sometimes, surgery is the only treatment necessary, and other times, it’s used in combination with other cancer treatments. For example, cancer that spreads to other parts of the body requires both “debulking” surgery and “systemic” therapy.

If surgery is part of your treatment plan, it’s important that you’re comfortable with the surgeon. Verify they have the qualifications (and experience) to perform surgery for your cancer type, situation, and preferences. 

 Do I Need Chemotherapy? 

So, do you need chemotherapy? Well, the answer is yes if you’re looking to:

  • Shrink a tumor before surgery or radiation treatment
  • Eliminate cancer from your body
  • Lessen the chance it will come back or slow/stop its growth
  • Destroy any cancer cells left after surgery or radiation treatment
  • Help other therapies work better

Cancer is a cell that is rapidly growing out of control. Therefore, chemotherapy is effective because it kills fast-growing cells. However, there are healthy cells in our body that also grow quickly. And unfortunately, chemotherapy can’t differentiate cancer cells from healthy cells. 

Healthy, fast-growing cells are present in the lining of our mouth, intestines, and hair. That’s why damaging these cells by chemotherapy often causes side effects like mouth sores, nausea, and hair loss. 

We remind all our clients to be active participants in their cancer treatment decision-making and voice their opinions.  Ask your healthcare team about the side effects of their recommended treatment and inquire about their ability to manage those side effects. 

Do I Need Radiation Treatment? 

Radiation kills cancer cells by damaging a cell’s DNA beyond repair. As you can probably imagine, this causes it to stop dividing and/or die.  Radiation is delivered internally or externally, and it sometimes takes weeks of treatment before the cancer cells are dead. 

Below are some factors determining the type of radiation:

  • The type  of cancer and the size of the tumor
  • Where the tumor is in the body 
  • The proximity of the tumor to other sensitive tissue 
  • Other types of cancer treatment you are to receive

Many practitioners combine radiation with other cancer treatments (chemotherapy, surgery, and immunotherapy cancer treatment). Additionally, radiation is given before, during, or after those treatments to boost effectiveness. 

 Is Immunotherapy Cancer Treatment for Me?

So, is immunotherapy right for you? Well, Immunotherapy cancer treatment consists of: 

  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Immune system modulators
  • Cancer vaccines
  • T Cell therapy

To fight disease-causing bacteria, our immune system identifies and destroys abnormal cells. And as research and technology continue to advance, we now have cancer treatments that help the immune system fight cancer cells.

These treatments help the immune system prevent or slow cancerous growth. But does it always work? Well, not necessarily. Cancer cells have their own ways of avoiding detection and destruction by the immune system. Additionally, they outsmart the immune system by:

  • Experiencing genetic changes that make them less visible to the immune system
  • Having proteins on their surface that turn the immune cell off 
  • Interfering with surrounding healthy cells, disrupting the immune system’s response 

The genomic profile of a tumor dictates whether immunotherapy is an option. And if it is, the genomic profile determines which immunotherapy cancer treatment to use.  Next-generation sequencing tests determine whether tumors respond to immunotherapy. So if this is something you want to explore, ask your doctor to order one. Then, rest assured that it reveals everything you need to know about the genomic profile of your tumor. 

What is Targeted Therapy? 

 So, what is target therapy? Well, scientists discover more about the changes in DNA and the growth-driving proteins within cancer cells every day. As they uncover this information, they develop specialized treatments to target those changes. 

Wondering if you’re a candidate for targeted therapy (aka “precision” medicine)? Well, your tumor must first contain the desired target. Otherwise, treatment won’t be effective. In most cases, practitioners use a Biomarker test to verify those targets. So, ask your practitioner if this is an option for you. 

Sometimes, targets change during treatment, and they become resistant to the targeted therapy. When this happens, targeted therapy is combined with other cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation.  

Targeted therapies include:

  • Small-molecule drugs –  targets found inside the cancer cell
  • Monoclonal antibodies – targets on the outside of the cancer cell

What Are the Side Effects of Immunotherapy Cancer Treatment? 

So, what are the side effects of treatment? Well, side effects come with every cancer treatment. However, the kind and severity vary. While some are long-lasting, others are short-term and stop promptly upon completion of the therapy. Additionally, you might find some tolerable, but others non-negotiable. So, if you’re worried about side effects, we recommend bringing those concerns to your care team. Ask them about the side effects associated with your recommended treatment options and use that to guide your decision-making.  

Find a Cancer Patient Advocate

The expertise of a cancer patient advocate flattens the learning curve when making important cancer treatment decisions. Not only are we well-versed in the healthcare system, but our compassionate team helps people make treatment decisions with confidence. So, if you want help navigating your cancer journey, Cancer Champions is here for you. 

Interested in learning more? Contact us or call (703) 403-7600 today to book a complimentary consultation.