Cancer continues to be one of the world’s leading causes of death. In Singapore, it’s no different either. According to the latest statistics, as of 2018, the most prominent forms of cancer in Singapore are in the prostate (men) and breast (women).
One’s cancer diagnosis and treatment will depend on several factors, such as the type of cancer, its stage, and your health condition. These factors will also affect the different objectives of cancer treatments, including cure, primary treatment, adjuvant treatment, or palliative treatment.
While your doctor will advise you to undergo a specific type of treatment, it is always good to know what are some of the types of treatment options you may have:
The most common type of cancer treatment worldwide is chemotherapy. For this treatment, you will be administered drugs to kill and impede the growth of cancer cells. It can also ease cancer symptoms by shrinking the tumours.
Some patients go through chemotherapy as their only type of cancer treatment. However, chemotherapy works best in conjunction with other cancer treatments. Depending on your type of cancer, you could include chemotherapy as one of your treatments alongside other options, such as surgery and radiotherapy, to increase the rates of success.
Cancer surgery remains the foundation of cancer treatment. There are different types of cancer surgery that aims to remove the cancer or as much of the cancer as possible:
Diagnostic – The goal here is to determine whether the growth is cancerous or non-cancerous. There are two types of diagnostic surgery: Incisional biopsy and excisional biopsy. With an incisional biopsy, the doctor will remove a portion of the tumour. As for excisional biopsy, the goal is to eliminate the entire area, such as a mole or lump.
Staging– To find out the size of the tumour and define how advanced your cancer is. The result of staging surgery will also help your doctor figure out which types of treatment will help prevent cancer from worsening.
Curative or Primary – Cancer surgery is the best chance for a cure for many tumours, especially if the cancer has not spread or is localized.
Debulking – Sometimes it’s impossible to remove the entire tumour without harming the organ. With debulking, the objective is to reduce as much of the tumour as possible through surgical means, in order to maximize the effectiveness of chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
3. Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy)
Radiation therapy utilises high doses of intense energy to eliminate cancer cells and shrink tumours. X-rays are most used, but protons and other types of energy may also be used. For those whose cancer responds to radiation therapy, their responses may be immediate or takes weeks or months.
The most common form of radiation therapy in cancer management centres is external beam radiation therapy, where a machine, like a linear accelerator, outside of your body is used to send high-energy beams to a targeted area of your body. The treatment itself usually only takes a few minutes.
The other type is brachytherapy, where the source of radiation is placed inside your body. The source can either be liquid or solid.
4. Targeted therapy
Targeted therapy treatments utilises drugs to focus on abnormalities within the cancer cells. The purpose of targeted therapy is to specifically block abnormalities to cause cancer cells to die.
Some targeted therapies only work in people who have certain genetic mutations in their cancer cells. These mutations are tested for in a lab in order to see if these drugs might be of assistance.
Immunotherapy essentially harnesses your own immune system to fight cancer. Your immune system may not be enough to fight cancer on its own because the cancer cells are not different enough, the response may not be strong enough, or even because the cancer cells produce proteins that blind the immune system cells.
Immunotherapy allows your immune system to recognize, strengthen its response, and target these cancer cells in order to to destroy them.
Whether you choose to undergo one or more cancer treatments, it is important to consult an experienced oncologist beforehand. International Cancer Specialists has the expertise and skills to provide the best care possible in the screening, diagnosis, treatment, and management of cancer.
Visit our cancer management centre in Singapore if you have any concerns about your risk of cancer. Our Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist and team of oncology specialists will be glad to be of assistance.