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Medical oncology involves the treatment of cancer using chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy. Your Vidant Health cancer care team will discuss your specific treatment options with you and your family. The therapies included in your care plan will depend on many factors, including the type and stage of your cancer, your general health, your response to previous treatments and more.
Chemotherapy uses strong drugs to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. Sometimes it works to cure the disease by destroying cancer cells and preventing their return. It can also be used to control cancer by slowing its growth or the potential to spread to other body parts. Chemo is often a successful treatment option for relieving pain and other symptoms of advanced cancer.
There are many chemo drugs being used to treat cancer. Depending on your cancer type, stage, location and other factors, your treatment plan may involve one drug or several. Chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with other treatments such as radiation or surgery.
Chemotherapy can be administered in a few different ways. The most common method is intravenously, where a needle is inserted into a vein and attached to an IV bag containing the drugs. This is also called infusion. Some chemotherapy is given orally, in pill or liquid form. Less common forms of chemo include injection, topical (applied directly to the skin), or direct placement into a specific body cavity.
You can receive chemotherapy during a hospital stay or in an outpatient setting. You may receive treatments on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Chemo is usually given in cycles, with breaks between treatment sessions. This allows your body to rest and rebuild healthy cells, and gives you a chance to regain your strength. The total length and schedule of your chemotherapy will depend on your cancer type, your treatment goals and how your body responds to the drugs.
Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. These drugs — different from chemotherapy medicines – can boost the immune system in several ways, including changing the way cancer cells grow, stopping the process that makes a normal cell cancerous, making cancer cells more susceptible to destruction by the immune system, etc.
Targeted agents are drugs or other substances that treat cancer by disrupting the process that causes normal cells to become cancerous. Unlike standard chemotherapy, targeted agents are designed to act only on cancer cells and not affect normal cells. Some cancers that have responded well to targeted therapies include lung, gastrointestinal, melanoma, sarcomas and breast. Targeted agents are one of the largest areas of focus in cancer research today, and it is believed that many of our best future advances in cancer treatment will come from this field.
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