Treatment

Because there are so many different sorts of cancer, there are also different sorts of treatment. The doctor always looks for a treatment with the best possible chance of a cure and with the fewest bad side effects as possible.

Doctors all over the world are looking for better and new ways to treat cancer. They often consult each other, both within as well as outside of the Netherlands.

Sample DescriptionDuring an operation the tumour, or a big a part as possible, will be removed by the surgeon. Sometimes more is removed, for instance a breast, or a leg or a piece of bowel. Of course, that is terrible, but necessary to prevent the tumour from carrying on growing. After the operation the pathologist (a specially trained doctor) examines the tumour tissue under the microscope. The result is known after a week or two. Further treatment is based on this result and the data from other tests. People who have an operation often have to stay in hospital for a while. When they come home, they can be weak from the operation. It might be that your mother or father cannot do certain things for a while, like lifting heavy things or going upstairs.
Perhaps the doctor will decide to give chemotherapy, also known as chemo. Those are medicines that attack the cancer cells. They are called cytostatics and make the cancer cells unable to divide and destroy them. The annoying part of it is that those medicines also attack healthy cells. Cells in the stomach or intestines, for instance, that make your mother or father feel like being sick, or the hair roots that means your mother or father will become bald. Luckily after some time the vomiting will go away and the hair will grow back. Most parents will be tired for a long time after they have had chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can be given through an intravenous drip, in pills or as an injection. Mostly your mother or father will be given the medicines in hospital, but sometimes it is as pills and can be taken at home. A drip, or intravenous drip, is a plastic bag with a thin tube that hangs on a tall pole and a needle goes into your mother or father’s veins in the arm. Usually there is a counter hanging from the pole too. That shows exactly how many drips of cytostatics is allowed to go through per minute.
Sometimes cancer cells give the wrong signals to their surroundings. For instance, they tell other cells that they have to grow or that blood vessels need to be made, so that the cancer cells can carry on eating. There are special medicines that can make sure that those wrong signals aren´t sent. That is called targeted treatment.
Irradiation, also called radiotherapy, can destroy cancer cells. The treatment takes place in the radiotherapy department where there are big machines that are aimed very precisely at the cancerous tumour. It is very precise work because the healthy cells have to be spared as much as possible. With the use of computer models, the doctor calculates in advance how much radiation is needed and where it should be directed. Because that has to be on the same spot each time, lines are drawn on your mother or father’s body or, if your mother or father needs radiation on his/her head, a mask is made.
Some substances which the body makes itself, like hormones, influence the growth of the cancer cells. That is why your mum or dad is sometimes given a treatment to stop the hormones. This hormone therapy (also known as endocrine therapy) is usually made up of medicines. Most parents get hot flashes from it. Then they break out in a sweat and get hot very quickly. After a few minutes it goes again.
In some forms of cancer immunotherapy is prescribed. It is a treatment with medicines that makes the immune system (defence system) of the body stronger. The medicines try to make the body stronger so that the cancer cells have less chance to grow. That way the body is able to defend itself better against the cancer cells. Most patients don’t suffer much from having immunotherapy. Some people feel it´s a bit like having the flu.
To make the chance to stop the cancer from coming back as big as possible, some parents have a stem cell transplantation. Stem cells are a sort of mother cell which –once they are developed – can make new blood cells. Stem cells are in the bone marrow, that is on the inside of the bones. First of all, your mother or father will have an injection to make the stem cells move from the bone marrow to the blood. Then the stem cells are taken out of the blood and kept. After that your mother or father will get chemo or radiotherapy and then in the end their stem cells will be put back again. If everything goes according to plan, the stem cells will grow into healthy blood cells. While this whole treatment is going on, your mother or father will sometimes have to be in a separate room and you cannot visit them. That can last a couple of weeks.