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.
Doctors all over the world are looking for better and new ways to treat cancer. Who knows one day they will be able to cure all people and nobody will get cancer anymore.
During an operation the tumour, or a big a part as possible, will be removed by the doctor. First your mum or dad is made to go to sleep. This is called anesthesia. Sometimes removing the cancer cells is not enough, so the doctor will remove more, the whole breast, for instance, or a leg or a piece of bowel. Of course, that is not nice at all. People who will 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 mum or dad cannot do certain things for a while, like lifting heavy things or going upstairs.
Perhaps the doctor will decide to give your mum or dad chemotherapy. Those are medicines that attack the cancer cells. They 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 tummy, for instance, that make your mum or dad feel like being sick, or the hair roots that make your mum or dad become bald. Luckily after some time that will go away. Some mums and dads 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 mum or dad will get the medicines in hospital, but sometime it is as pills and they 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 from the tube into your mum or dad’s arm. Usually there is a box with a sort of counter hanging from the pole too. That shows exactly how many drips of medicine per minute may go through.
Sometimes cancer cells give 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. Would you like to know more about chemotherapy? Please ask for the book Chemo-Kasper, if you do. The book is about a boy with cancer but it is also good to read it if your mum or dad has cancer. If the hospital does not know who Chemo-Kasper is, go to www.vokk.nl
Some substances the body makes itself, for instance, hormones, make cancer cells grow faster. Of course, that is not good. That is why your mum or dad sometimes gets a treatment that gets rid of the hormones. This hormone therapy is usually made up of medicines.
Another weird word. Immunotherapy is medicines that make sure that your mum or dad’s body can defend itself better against cancer cell attacks. They try to make the body stronger, so that the cancer cells have less chance to grow.
Stem cell transplantation
If a whole lot of chemotherapy or radiotherapy is needed, stem cells can be damaged. To make sure that there can be new blood cells, there is a treatment called stem cell transplantation. Stem cells are a sort of mother cells from which –once they are grown – various new blood cells can come. Stem cells are in the bone marrow, that is on the inside of the bones. First of all, your mum or dad 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 mum or dad will get an awful lot of chemo or radiation and then in the end their cells will be put back again. If everything goes according to plan, the stem cells will grow into healthy blood cells after a while. While this whole treatment is going on, your mum or dad will sometimes have to be in a separate room and you cannot go to visit them. That can last a couple of weeks.