As we have discussed, that an early diagnosis of cancer can help a lot in treating the patient. Allopathy has 3 answers to cancer. Surgery, Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy.
Surgery in Cancer treatment – This is the best option out of all. Surgery is the best and the fastest way of getting rid of the tumor. The tumor is cut and taken out from the body. This is known as excision. Tumors of an early stage do not invade into other normal organs and so they can be easily excised out. This is one of the main benefits of an early diagnosis.
Benign tumors do not show the property of invasion. Thus they are present but not fixed. They are easily excisable as there is no fixation to nearby structures. Even if the benign tumors are not causing any harm, they can even be left untreated. But to take them out is always preferable. Benign tumors are well capsulated and so they do not mix up with surrounding structures and a clear excision can be done. Example- a stone can be easily picked up from mud than a clay piece.
On the contrary, the malignant tumors invade the surrounding structures in such a way that it becomes almost impossible for the surgeon to cut out every piece of tumor from the body. The tumor penetrates itself into such inaccessible manner that the entire tumor cannot be excised. These tumor parts invade the organs and surrounding healthy tissues. On operation, the major part of the tumor can be taken out but the tumor tissues present in the other structures as invaded tissues cannot be taken out. Neither the surrounding structures with tumor tissues invaded into them can be taken out. In such cases, invaded tissues by the tumor have to be left inevitably.
Contraindications of surgery –
Surgery is the best option for cancer treatment but it is not always possible to operate the patient. Surgery is contraindicated in following conditions –
– If the patient is too old and week to sustain a surgery.
– If the cancer has advanced so much that it becomes impossible to cut out such a large tumor.
– If the tumor is present in an inaccessible area like some parts in brain.
– If the tumor is present in vital organs which cannot be cut out as they are sustaining life. In such cases, the organ cannot be taken out and thus a surgery is not possible. Example- in Hepatic Carcinoma (Cancer of Liver), the liver cannot be taken out even if it has the tumor, as this will definitely endanger life. In such cases, Radiotherapy (RT) & Chemotherapy (CT) are given.
– In cases where there is high degree of invasion and thus the tumor cannot be completely cut out.
Radiotherapy in cancer – The second best treatment is the radiotherapy which is also an effective treatment. It is not better than surgery but much better than chemotherapy. Surgery and Radiotherapy can be done both for benign and malignant tumors.
Radiotherapy is a local treatment. The ionizing radiations burn the tumor cells and thus reduce them in size. The amount of radiations to be used is determined by
– Size of the tumor
-Sensitivity of the tumor tissue to the radiations (greater the sensitivity means lesser the radiations required to treat). This is known as the radio sensitivity of the tumor tissue.
– Tolerance power of the tissue. It means how many radiations a tissue can tolerate.
Generally, Radiations are given in cycles. Each cycle consists of a few rounds. Each round is given for a day.
Suppose a lady having a breast tumor has been suggested Radiotherapy. So she is given radiations 5 days a week for 4-5 weeks. The main aim of the radiotherapy is to burn the tumor with minimal damage to the surrounding healthy structures. These radiations are harmful to body tissues and thus when they are directed on an area locally, it destroys the tumor tissues. Although there is a damage to the nearby structures to some extent.
Contraindications of Radiotherapy-
– When the tumor has grown up to a very large size.
– When there is metastasis to other parts of the body.
– When the tumor is present in vital organs which cannot sustain the radiations. The radiations will destroy the organ along with the tumor and thus it will end the patient’s life.
– When there is high level of infiltration by the tumor into the surrounding structures.
Chemotherapy in cancer – The last option in allopathy is chemotherapy. It is the treatment which has the administration of cytotoxic drugs (drugs which are fatal to the cells). These cell killing drugs act on body cells including the tumor cells and destroy those cells reducing the size of the tumor. More than 100 drugs have been discovered for anti-cancerous treatment which are used alone or in combinations.
Chemotherapy can be given for the following purposes –
Cure –if the tumor is small in size, it can be reduced and destroyed completely. But there should not be any return of the tumor in order to call it a complete cure. Thus, doctors generally do not use the term cure as there is no guarantee. Here the aim is to destroy the tumor completely.
Control – If the cancer growth is too large, and cannot be cured then it should be reduced to a smaller size. Thus by the chemotherapy, the bigger tumors are made small so that the life is prolonged to an extent. Also, the chemotherapy can reduce the tumor to make it operable. Here the aim is to reduce the tumor to an extent.
Palliation – This means relief. If the tumor has advanced to a much higher extent, it can be used to relieve the symptoms which are caused by the tumor. Here the aim is to reduce the symptoms caused by the tumor so that the patient can have a smooth end.
The treatment and dosage of the drug is decided according to the patient’s age, type and state of cancer and the patient’s general health state. Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment which means it acts on the body as a whole and not on the specific part of the body. It can be given in four ways-
– Orally, by mouth, taken in the form of pills.
– Intravenous, infused through veins.
– Intramuscular, injected into the muscle.
– Subcutaneous, injected under the skin.
Now days, to specifically treat the particular region, the chemotherapy drugs are injected or infused in that particular area to cause an effect.
Side effects of chemotherapy- As we have seen that the chemotherapy drugs are non specific and they act on the entire body, thus having side effects. Chemo drugs do not have the power to decide between the normal cells and the cancerous cells. Thus they act on all the cells. The cancer cells are destroyed along with some normal cells. So it gives relief in cancer symptoms but the damage to the normal cells causes side effects.
Chemotherapy destroys the cells itself but also lowers the immunity of the person, making the person weak. On giving chemotherapy, the tumor is reduced along with the immunity of the person. But after a month or few, the tumor grows to its original size again but the body immunity is not able to cope up by this time. Hence the body now is left with the same size of the tumor as it was, earlier. But now the immunity is much lowered. This unmatched immune level with the increasing tumor size makes the condition worse and the person becomes very weak.
Use of chemotherapy is still a question. It prolongs the life indeed but makes the conditions of the patient worse. It is better to live for 3 months with a good health than to live for 5 months on bed in weakness often with disastrous side effects. But the use of chemotherapy with other treatments is found to be beneficial.
Common Side Effects of Chemotherapy – Anemia, Appetite Loss, Bleeding problems, Constipation, Fatigue and weak feeling, Hair Loss, Nausea, Vomiting, Memory changes, Nerve changes, Skin and nail changes, Sexual ability changes, Swelling and Urinary changes.
Chemotherapy followed by Surgery – In cases of very large tumors which cannot be removed surgically, are reduced to a small size so that the surgeons can operate it out.
Chemotherapy after Surgery – After surgical excision of the tumor, there are still some pieces of the tumor tissues left in the area, which can be destroyed by chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy with radiotherapy – Reducing the tumor by radiations along with chemotherapy can help in finishing the tumor.
Contraindications of Chemotherapy –
– Patient is too weak to handle chemotherapy.
– If the patient is too old to sustain chemotherapy.
– If there are multiple metastatic growths and the tumor has gone beyond the limit of treatment.