Utah Cancer Control Program A Unified Cancer Prevention Approach

Ways to Treat Cancer

There are several different methods used to treat cancer. The type of treatment used depends on many different things, including the type of cancer, how far the cancer has spread, the person, and many other things.

Some types of cancer treatment are:

Biological Therapy

Biological therapy assists the body as it fights off the cancer on its own. It helps to strengthen the body's natural cancer-fighting processes. Biological therapy may cause some side effects, but other medications can be used to treat these. Side effects often vary from person to person.


Chemotherapy uses chemicals to fight the cancer. It can be taken by mouth or injected into a vein. Sometimes it is injected into the spinal fluid. The drugs used in chemotherapy kill the cancer cells but can also damage regular, healthy cells. The damage to the healthy cells is what causes so many side effects. Side effects from chemotherapy may include:

  • Low levels of blood cells—this can make you feel tired, or you may get sick more often.
  • Hair loss
  • Upset stomach which may cause vomiting or diarrhea
  • Sores in the mouth and/or on the lips
  • Infertility
Induction Therapy

Induction therapy is a combination of chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and steroids.

Radiation Therapy

In radiation therapy, a beam of high-energy rays is directed towards the cancer, or over the entire body. The rays kill the cancer cells. Side effects vary depending on how much radiation is received and what part of the body it is directed towards. Most side effects are temporary and can be managed with medication.

Stem Cell Transplantation

Because chemotherapy and radiation therapy can end up killing off healthy blood cells, patients may receive a stem cell transplant. A stem cell transplant allows the patient's body to develop new, healthy blood cells. The transplanted stem cells may come from the patient or someone who donates them to the patient. Patients who receive a stem cell transplant often must stay in the hospital for a long period of time because they may get sick easily. They must also be monitored to make sure their body will not fight against the new stem cells.

Targeted Therapy

During targeted therapy, drugs are used to stop the cancer from growing or spreading to other parts of the body. It does this by focusing on certain parts of the cancer cells that help it grow and copy itself. Targeted therapy does cause some side effects such as rash, swelling, muscle cramps, bloating, weight gain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Watchful Waiting

Watchful waiting is exactly what it sounds like. When a patient and their doctor choose watchful waiting, no treatment is given, and the cancer is monitored through regular check-ups. It is usually only an option for those with no symptoms. When symptoms do appear, watchful waiting typically ends and another treatment option begins. The advantage to this option is that the patient has no side effects. The disadvantage is that by the time the cancer is treated, it may have progressed to the point where it cannot be treated as well as it could have been earlier.