Cancer is a deadly non-communicable disease in Indonesia, following the top-ranked position of heart disease. The main cause of cancer is DNA mutations in cells whose risk is increasing by various factors. So, what are the ways to treat cancer? Is it just taking anti-cancer drugs? Let’s find out more in the following review.
Choice of cancer drugs and medical procedures
Growing cells do not die and existing cells continue to divide uncontrollably is a hallmark of cancer cells. It is these abnormal cells that then form tumors in certain types of cancer. Without treatment, cancer cells can spread (metastatic) and damage the function of surrounding tissues.
Well, now there are various ways to treat cancer, including:
Chemotherapy or chemo is a cancer treatment using drugs that can kill abnormal cells in the body. The drug is grouped by how it works, its chemical structure, and its interactions with other drugs.
Various types of drugs used in chemotherapy include:
- Alkylating agent
The drug inhibits cells from splitting by damaging their DNA. Typically, it is used to treat lung cancer, breast cancer, and leukaemia. Alkylating agents for example are busulfan, temozolomide, mechlorethamine, altretamine, lomustine, and chlorambucil.
The drug interferes with the DNA and RNA in the cells so as not to divide themselves. It is commonly used to treat bowel cancer, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer. For example, anti-cancer drugs of this type are azacitidine, fludarabine, pralatrexate, and cladribine.
- Anti-tumor antibiotic
This drug is not like antibiotics to treat bacterial infections, but it changes the DNA in cancer cells so as not to grow and divide. Drugs of this group are for example antrasiklin (daunorubicin, epirubicin) or nontrasylin (bleomycin, dactinomicin).
- Topoisomerase Inhibitors
The drug can interfere with the enzyme topoisomerase which causes chemical reactions in living cells. It is commonly used to treat pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer. Drugs of this type for example are camptothecins (topotecan, irinotecan) and epipodophyllotoxins (teniposide).
- Mitosis inhibitors
This remedy for malignant tumors works by stopping cells from splitting. It is usually used to treat lymphoma cancer and blood cancer. For example this type of drug is docetaxel, vinorelbine, and paclitaxel.
The drug is useful to prevent chemotherapy side effects, such as nausea and vomiting. The drugs used as examples are prednisone, methylprednisolone, and dexamethasone.
Chemotherapy not only kills cancer cells but also the surrounding healthy cells. However, most normal cells can recover after therapy.
How to overcome cancer can also be with radiotherapy. This cancer therapy does not use drugs, but rather radiation rays. Therefore, this treatment is also known as radiation therapy.
Unlike radiation imaging tests, this treatment uses high doses of radiation. That way, the tumor can shrink and the cancer cells can die. These abnormal cells are then broken down and removed from inside your body.
However, this therapy cannot directly kill cancer cells with a single treatment. It takes several treatments to make the DNA of cancer cells damaged and die.
Alternative cancer treatment in addition to chemotherapy is divided into two types, namely external radiation and internal radiation (brachytherapy). Determining which type of cancer therapy is for you, will be tailored to the type of cancer, the size and location of the tumor, and the overall health of the body.
3. Biological therapy
The next way to treat cancer is biological therapy. This therapy involves the use of laboratory-produced substances that act against cancer cells. This cancer therapy is divided into various types, including:
The next way to treat cancer that is still drug-based is immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that utilizes the human immune system to fight back.
The way it works is to stimulate your own immune system to stop the growth and proliferation of cancer cells in the body. Then, it provides special man-made substances that have immune-like functions and properties, such as immune proteins.
This treatment is an alternative when the cancer does not respond well to radiation or chemotherapy. Methods of immunotherapy as a way of treating cancer, include:
- Immune checkpoint inhibitors. Administration of special drugs so that immune cells respond more strongly to cancer. This is done by reducing the influence of immune checkpoints in the body, which is the part of the immune system that regulates the immune system so that it is not too strong.
T cell transfer therapy. Treatment to improve the natural ability of T-cells to fight cancer. Initially, immune system cells around the tumor were taken, selected the most active against cancer, and engineered in the laboratory to work better. Furthermore, the cells are put back into the body by injection in the blood vessels.
- Monoclonal antibodies. How to treat this cancer is also called therapeutic antibodies. The treatment uses proteins from the immune system created in a laboratory designed to mark and bind cancer cells so that the immune system is easier to recognize and destroy.
- Cancer drug vaccine. This treatment is a vaccine that works to improve the immune system’s response to cancer cells. However, please be aware that vaccines in immunotherapy are different from vaccines commonly used to prevent disease.
- Immune system modulators. This way of treating cancer works by improving the immune system’s more specific response whose job it is to fight cancer cells.
Just like other treatments, immunotherapy also causes side effects such as body fatigue, skin problems, fever, and body aches.
- Target therapy
Targeted therapy is a targeted treatment to block the growth and spread of cancer cells with drugs. This treatment is different from chemotherapy because it can specifically destroy cancer cells through drugs. Unlike chemotherapy, this cancer treatment does not affect the healthy cells around the cancer.
Although it targets directly to kill abnormal cells and is considered to be able to treat cancer, this way still has drawbacks. Its weaknesses, such as cancer cells becoming immune to certain medications, are only effective at treating tumors with specific genetic mutations, and cause diarrhea, liver problems, and blood clotting.
4. Hormone Therapy
Hormone therapy is a cancer treatment that slows or stops the growth of cancers that use hormones. Hormone therapy is also called endocrine therapy. Usually, this therapy is used as a way of treating breast cancer and prostate cancer.
The purpose of this treatment is to shrink the tumor before radiation therapy is performed. Then, it is also used as an additional cancer treatment so that the cancer does not relapse.
Cancer therapy treatments vary widely, including taking hormone-containing medications, hormone injections in the body, and organ removal operations, such as ovaries or testicles. Unfortunately, this treatment only works on cancers that require body hormones and cause side effects such as decreased sex drive, impotence, dry vagina, and fatigue.
5. Cancer surgery
A very common way of treating cancer in addition to taking medication is surgery. This medical procedure is performed to remove the cancer cells from spreading to the surrounding healthy tissues.
There are various types of surgery for cancer, including:
The operation uses cold energy in the form of liquid nitrogen to freeze cancer cells and destroy them. Usually done to overcome cervical cancer.
- Electrical surgery
Surgery using high frequency electric current to kill cancer cells in the skin or mouth.
- Laser operation
Surgery by relying on the help of high intensity light rays to deflate malignant tumors and eliminate cancer cells.
- Operation Mohs
Surgery on sensitive areas of the skin, such as eyelid cancer. This operation is performed by removing cancer cells in the form of layers with a scalpel.
- Laparoscopic Surgery
Surgical procedure by making a small incision and inserting a special tool equipped with a camera as well as a cutter to remove cancer cells.
6. Radionuclear therapy
Radionuclear therapy is a medical procedure involving heat from nuclear power that can be used to treat diseases, one of which is cancer.
Before you begin, you will undergo body imaging to map the location of cancer cells and their possible metastases. The team of doctors will then prepare the type and dosage of radioisotope drugs (containing radioactive compounds) that suit your physical condition.
Afterwards, the drug is then injected directly into the blood vessels. Within minutes, the drug will run to the targeted location of cancer cells. Furthermore, you should be isolated in a special room and hospitalized so as not to pollute the surrounding environment until the levels of radioactive material are below reasonable (harmless) limits.
During treatment, you may need to wear a mask or other protective equipment that will block radiation from affecting other parts of the body. Side effects of radionuclear therapy are nausea, vomiting, volatile mood swings, and discomfort in the body.
7. Ultrasound therapy
In early 2020, the American Institute of Physics revealed that the use of ultrasound (ultrasound) with the correct frequency can destroy cancer cells. Ultrasound therapy from Caltech relies on exposure to heat energy from low-intensity ultrasound to kill cancer cells without damaging surrounding healthy cells.
Then, it is also known as HIFU ultrasound or high intensity focused ultrasound. This therapy uses a way of working that is inversely proportional to ultrasound therapy from Caltech, namely using high frequencies.
HIFU cannot penetrate solid bone or air, so it can only be used in certain types of cancer, one of which is prostate cancer. However, until now researchers are still making deeper observations about the effectiveness as well as side effects. The use of this treatment in Indonesia is still not common.
8. Biopsy surgery
Biopsy is indeed known as one of the cancer diagnosis tests. However, biopsy is also a cancer treatment because the process of tumor removal can be done at once when the examination of the presence of cancer is done.
Surgical biopsy procedures are used to remove part of an abnormal cell area (incision biopsy) or remove an entire area of abnormal cells (excision biopsy). Usually the doctor will give you local or general anesthesia, and ask you to opname a few days.
In addition to cancer drugs, there are also palliative care
Palliative care is a treatment that aims not to cure diseases. However, it helps patients reduce symptoms or reduce other factors that aggravate symptoms so that their quality of life is better. Examples of palliative care that cancer patients usually follow are:
1. Art and music therapy
Further cancer treatment, not using drugs but with art activities. Although it does not directly cure cancer cells, it helps patients manage their emotions, such as sadness, anger, fear, and anxiety.
By managing emotions better, the patient’s mental health will also improve and will have an impact on the immune system so as to improve the patient’s quality of life for the better.
In this therapy, the patient will be filled with various activities, such as listening to music, singing, playing musical instruments, pouring his emotions into lyrics and songs, drawing, painting, carving, or making various crafts.
2. Animal therapy (pet therapy)
Animal therapy also does not use drugs to treat cancer. Apparently, decreased stress during pet therapy is caused by the production of endorphin hormones.
This hormone can relieve pain and make a person more comfortable and happy. If concluded, pet therapy can help cancer patients in several ways, namely:
- Reduces pain, allowing patients to reduce their use of anti-inflammatory drugs
- Reduce stress due to the disease and also the treatment done
- Reduces fatigue symptoms that usually affect cancer patients
3. Cancer treatment for the elderly (elderly)
Unlike adults of a younger age, the elderly do not have much cancer treatment. This is because usually the elderly also have other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. As a result, the side effects that can arise from elderly treatment are much more serious.
Cancer treatment that can be undergone by the elderly is taking drugs through chemotherapy, following radiotherapy, and cancer cell removal surgery. However, the side effects will be more severe so both doctors and families should consider treatment options carefully.
Various side effects that appear during cancer treatment in the elderly include:
- Impaired heart, kidney, and lung function.
- Decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.
- Digestion is disrupted and nervous system damage occurs.