Your Oncologist might recommend a specific type of treatment based on the type and stage of detected cancer, as well as the means your Oncologist has available to treat. In most cases, their treatment recommendation is the best possible option but it does help to understand all risks and benefits associated with this important decision.
Disclosure: Colorado CyberKnife specializes in Radiation Therapy (Stereotactic RadioSurgery – SRS, Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy – SBRT, & Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy – IMRT) but we will not treat patients who have better treatment options elsewhere. We will refer you to another facility in our national network of Oncology Specialists in order to ensure the best possible treatment option for you.
Active Surveillance (a.k.a. Expectant Management, Watchful Waiting)
Cancer Type(s): Low-Risk (Slow-Growing) Cancers
With some “low-risk” cancers that appear to be benign (not-spreading), the treatment can actually be determined to be riskier than the tumor. Active Surveillance is monitoring of the cancer closely with often multiple screening tests at regular intervals to see if the cancer is growing. Biopsies may be done as well to see if the cancer is becoming more aggressive.
Watchful Waiting is a less-intensive version of Active Surveillance.
Pro: Since there is no treatment, there are no treatment side effects other than the risks associated with screening.
Con: Active Surveillance can be psychologically harmful to the patient, and can also be risky if cancer is mis-diagnosed as “low-risk” and spreads.
Cancer Type(s): Most Cancers
Surgery can be used to diagnose, treat, or even help prevent cancer in some cases. Most people with cancer will have some type of surgery.
Pro: There are a vast number of skilled surgeons to choose from that are very effective at removing a single mass or tumor. Word of mouth and reviews are very important when considering a surgeon.
Con: Surgeons cannot remove cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Also, the healing time from surgical incisions is considerable and presents potential life-threatening consequences from excessive bleeding, infection, and damage to surrounding tissues. Sexual and reproductive issues can also be common with surgery.
Cancer Type(s): Most Cancers (click here for complete list)
Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or waves to destroy or damage cancer cells. It is one of the most common treatments for cancer, either by itself or along with other forms of treatment.
Pro: With skilled technicians and next-gen technology, Radiation Therapy is extremely effective at destroying cancer cells without damaging surrounding tissues. It also has the ability to shrink tumors down for conjunctive treatment and stimulate the body’s own immune response to fight tumors. RT is painless, requires no incision, anesthesia or hospitalization and is covered by all major insurance companies. Colorado CyberKnife has determined from national clinical trials that Radiation Therapy can be the safest and most effective treatment for certain cancers and employs this technology when called for.
Con: Risks of Radiation Therapy can include damage to surrounding tissues (if administered improperly), fatigue, skin irritation, and loss of appetite.
Cancer Type(s): Most Cancers
Chemotherapy (chemo) is the use of medicines or drugs to treat cancer. The thought of having chemotherapy frightens many people. But knowing what chemotherapy is, how it works, and what to expect can often help calm your fears. It can also give you a better sense of control over your cancer treatment.
Pro: Chemotherapy is very effective at curing some early-stage cancers and is useful at controlling some late-stage cancers by controlling the symptoms.
Con: Side effects from chemotherapy include fatigue, multiple areas of pain, headaches, mouth and throat sores, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, constipation, blood disorders, and nerve damage.
Cancer Type(s): Testing is Necessary to Determine
Targeted therapy is a newer type of cancer treatment that uses drugs or other substances to block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules (“molecular targets”) that are involved in the growth, progression, and spread of cancer. Targeted cancer therapies are sometimes called “molecularly targeted drugs,” “molecularly targeted therapies,” “precision medicines,” or similar names.
Pro: Targeted Therapy is a very exciting new form of cancer treatment. The treatment may be less toxic and more effective than chemotherapy.
Con: There may also be substantial side effects to Targeted Therapy including hepatitis and other liver issues, diarrhea, skin rashes, blood clotting, high blood pressure, and in rare cases, gastrointestinal perforation.
Cancer Type(s): Historically, Kidney Cancer and Melanoma but Potentially More
Immunotherapy is treatment that uses your body’s own immune system to help fight cancer. It is technically a “Targeted Therapy“.
Pro: The major advantage of immunotherapy is that there are usually fewer side effects.
Con: Still a growing therapy… Different cancers in different patients may not respond favorably to immunotherapy. Although side effects can vary widely from one patient to another, common side effects might include flu-like symptoms, loss of appetite, fever and fatigue and also vary based on the type of therapy.
Stem Cell Transplant (Peripheral Blood, Bone Marrow, and Cord Blood Transplants)
Cancer Type(s): Many Cancers Including Leukemia, Multiple Myeloma, Testicular Cancer, Neuroblastoma, and some Lymphomas
In a typical stem cell transplant for cancer very high doses of chemo are used, often along with radiation therapy, to try to destroy all the cancer cells. This treatment also kills the stem cells in the bone marrow. Soon after treatment, stem cells are given to replace those that were destroyed. These stem cells are given into a vein, much like a blood transfusion. Over time they settle in the bone marrow and begin to grow and make healthy blood cells. This process is called engraftment. There are three types of Stem Cell Transplants: Autologous Transplants (the cells come from you), Tandem Transplants (the cells come from a matched related or unrelated donor), and Allogeneic Transplants (the cells come from your identical twin or triplet).
Pro: Emerging as a potentially very effective treatment for certain types of cancer.
Con: There are several potentially serious side-effects from stem cell transplant due to its co-treatment with chemotherapy and radiation. Other side effects include GVHD (Graft Versus Host Disease), fatigue, mouth sores, sore throat, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, low blood count, loss of hair, changes in skin pigmentation, rash, cataracts (a clouding of the lens of the eyes), sexual side effects, and infertility.