The first port of call for the treatment of most solid types of cancer is surgery. This is because most solid tumours can be surgically removed if they have not spread. If the removal of all cancerous tissue is successful this may be the only treatment needed. However, the two other most frequently used method of treatment are:
- Chemotherapy medication is used to kill cancerous cells
- Radiotherapy the controlled use of high-energy radiation to target cancer cells.
These can both be used in conjunction with surgery as part of a treatment plan, either before as a measure to shrink the cancer prior to operation or after the surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are also used in solid cancers where surgery is not possible, either as single treatments or in combination. In blood-based cancers such as leukaemia and lymphoma surgery is not of any value and treatment is usually based on chemotherapy with or without radiotherapy.
Other medications can also be used as part of a treatment plan and depend on the type and severity of cancer. These include ‘biological’ (sometimes called ‘targeted’) treatments, such as tyrosine kinase inhibitors and immunotherapy, which may be valuable in a minority of patients with very specific types of cancer. You can read more about these here.