Types of Cancers and their Treatments

This section aims to explain some of the most common forms of treatment for different types of cancers.

What causes cancer?

Doctors cannot always explain why one person gets cancer and another does not. However, scientists have studied general patterns of cancer in the population to learn what things around us and what things we do in our lives may increase our chance of developing cancer.

Anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor; anything that decreases a person’s chance of developing a disease is called a protective factor. Some of the risk factors for cancer can be avoided, but many cannot. For example, although you can choose to quit smoking, you cannot choose which genes you have inherited from your parents. Both smoking and inheriting specific genes could be considered risk factors for certain kinds of cancer, but only smoking can be avoided. Prevention means avoiding the risk factors and increasing the protective factors that can be controlled so that the chance of developing cancer decreases.

Although many risk factors can be avoided, it is important to keep in mind that avoiding risk factors does not guarantee that you will not get cancer. Also, most people with a particular risk factor for cancer do not actually get the disease. Some people are more sensitive than others are to factors that can cause cancer. Talk to your doctor about methods of preventing cancer that might be effective for you.

Breast Cancer

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

The stage of the cancer (whether it is in the breast only or has spread to lymph nodes or other places in the body).
The type of breast cancer.
Estrogen-receptor and progesterone-receptor levels in the tumor tissue.
A woman’s age, general health, and menopausal status (whether a woman is still having menstrual periods).
Whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred (come back).

There are different types of treatment options, including:

Radiation therapy
Hormone therapy
Targeted therapy

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is treated in several ways, depending on the type of lung cancer and how far it has spread. Treatments include the following:


People with lung cancer often get more than one kind of treatment. Individuals who have been treated for lung cancer may continue to have symptoms caused by the cancer or by cancer treatments (side effects).

Cervical Cancer

Standard treatment for cervical cancer patients include:

Radiation therapy

Prostate Cancer

The standard treatment options for Prostate Cancer include:

Watchful waiting or active surveillance
Radiation therapy
Hormone therapy
Biologic therapy

The chance of recovery and treatment options depend on the following:
The stage of the cancer (whether it affects part of the prostate, involves the whole prostate, or has spread to other places in the body).
The patient’s age and health.
Whether the cancer has just been diagnosed or has recurred (come back).

Recovery also depends on the Gleason score and the level of PSA (Prostate-specific antigen test).


Treatment options for lymphoma include:

Radiation therapy
Stem cell transplantation

Your doctor may refer you to a specialist, or you may ask for a referral. Specialists who treat Hodgkin lymphoma include hematologists, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists. Your doctor may suggest that you choose an oncologist who specializes in the treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma.

The choice of treatment depends mainly on the following:

The type of your Hodgkin lymphoma (most people have classical Hodgkin lymphoma)
Its stage (where the lymphoma is found)
Whether you have a tumor that is more than 4 inches (10 centimeters) wide
Your age
Whether you’ve had weight loss, drenching night sweats, or fevers.

People with Hodgkin lymphoma may be treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. If Hodgkin lymphoma comes back after treatment, doctors call this a relapse or recurrence. People with Hodgkin lymphoma that comes back after treatment may receive high doses of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both, followed by stem cell transplantation.


People with leukemia have many treatment options and sometimes more than one are used together. The options are:

watchful waiting
targeted therapy
biological therapy
radiation therapy and
stem cell transplant; If your spleen is enlarged, your doctor may suggest surgery to remove it.

The choice of treatment depends mainly on the following:

The type of leukemia (acute or chronic)
Your age
Whether leukemia cells were found in your cerebrospinal fluid

It also may depend on certain features of the leukemia cells. Your doctor also considers your symptoms and general health.

People with acute leukemia need to be treated right away. The goal of treatment is to destroy signs of leukemia in the body and make symptoms go away. This is called a remission. After people go into remission, more therapy may be given to prevent a relapse. This type of therapy is called consolidation therapy or maintenance therapy. Many people with acute leukemia can be cured.

If you have chronic leukemia without symptoms, you may not need cancer treatment right away. Your doctor will watch your health closely so that treatment can start when you begin to have symptoms. Not getting cancer treatment right away is called watchful waiting.

When treatment for chronic leukemia is needed, it can often control the disease and its symptoms. People may receive maintenance therapy to help keep the cancer in remission, but chronic leukemia can seldom be cured with chemotherapy. However, stem cell transplants offer some people with chronic leukemia the chance for cure.
Having one or more risk factors does not mean that a person will get leukemia. Most people who have risk factors never develop the disease.

Colon Cancer

There are four main types of treatment for colon cancer:

Radiation therapy
Targeted Therapy

Removing the cancer in a surgical operation is the most common treatment for all stages of colon cancer. There are four types of surgery that the doctor may use to remove the cancer:

Local excision: this type of removal tends to occur in early stages, where the doctor may remove it without cutting through the abdominal wall. The surgery tends to be preformed with a tube through the rectum into the colon to cut the cancer out.
Resection: If the cancer is larger, the doctor may remove the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it, known as a partial colectomy. An anastomosis may follow, which is where the doctor will sew the remaining healthy parts of the colon together.
Resection and colostomy: This type of surgery is required when the doctor is unable to sew the two ends of the colon back together. An astoma, or opening, is then made on the outside of the body for waste excretion, which is collected by a bag placed around the stoma. This is known as a colostomy. It may be reversed if the lower colon has healed.
Cryosurgery: This type of treatment is comprised of freezing and destroying abnormal tissue.
Chemotherapy is another common treatment in which drugs are used to stop the growth of cancer cells. The drugs either kill the cells or stop them from diving.
Chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injection where it enters the bloodstream to reach cancer cells.
The result of chemotherapy depends heavily on the type and stage of cancer.

Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is comprised of high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There two types of radiation therapy:

External radiation therapy, which uses a machine outside the body.
Internal radiation, which uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. Just like chemotherapy, the result of radiation therapy depends heavily on the type of stage of cancer.
Targeted Therapy
This form of therapy drugs or other substances to identify and target specific cancer cells without harming healthy cells. For example, a type of targeted therapy is known as monoclonal antibody, which uses antibodies made in the laboratory from a ingle type of immune system cell. By identifying the cancer cells, the antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, stop them from growing, or keep them fro spreading.

Thyroid Cancer

There are many ways to treat thyroid cancer, depending on the type and stage of the cancer, and your overall health.

Surgery: This is the most common treatment of thyroid cancer.
Operations include:

Thyroidectomy: removing all or most of the thyroid.
Removing enlarged lymph nodes in the neck.

Thyroid Hormone Therapy: After surgery is used to treat thyroid cancer, thyroid hormone medication is taken for life. The medication not only supplies the missing hormone your thyroid would normally produce, but also suppresses the production of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) from your pituitary gland.

Radioactive Iodine: After having a thyroidectomy, this treatment uses doses of radioactive iodine to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue as well as any remaining areas of thyroid cancer. It can also be used to treat any recurring cancer after treatment.

External Radiation Therapy: This radiation therapy uses high-energy beams at precise points on the body. Generally, external radiation therapy is used to treat cancer that has spread to the bones. It is administered for 6 weeks, 5 days a week, a few minutes at a time.

Chemotherapy: Infused through a vein, chemotherapy is a drug treatment that kills cancer. The chemicals travel quickly through the body to kill growing cancer cells.