© 2005-2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). All rights reserved worldwide.
Treatments, Tests, and Procedures
Learn more about the specific medical tests and procedures used to diagnose and treat cancer.
Maintenance therapy is the ongoing use of chemotherapy (the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells) or another treatment to help lower the risk of recurrence (return of cancer) after it has disappeared following initial therapy. Maintenance therapy also may be used for patients with advanced cancer (cancer that cannot be cured) to help keep it from growing and spreading farther. In either situation, this type of treatment may be given for a long time.
Immunotherapy (also called biologic therapy or biotherapy) is a type of cancer treatment that uses the body's immune system to fight cancer. There are several types of immunotherapy, including monoclonal antibodies, non-specific immunotherapies, and cancer vaccines.
Get an overview on radiation therapy, including types of radiation therapy and safety tips for the patient and family.
The goal of radiation therapy (also referred to as radiotherapy) is to eliminate cancerous tumors within the body without destroying the surrounding healthy tissue. However, undesired side effects may accompany even the most precise therapy. Many unwanted symptoms of radiation therapy are controlled or relieved with medications, diet, and stretching/exercise, and many problems disappear when treatments are completed.
Learn about a patient's personal experience–what he or she will experience when receiving radiation therapy.
Some people with cancer may hesitate to have radiation therapy because they are uncertain about the treatment and the possible side effects. It is important to learn about the treatment and communicate with your health-care team if you have any further questions.
A sigmoidoscopy is a screening or diagnostic test that allows a doctor to see inside the lower 20 inches of the sigmoid colon and rectum (also called the large intestine). It is frequently used as a screening test to find polyps, which are small growths that may become cancer. Usually polyps do not cause any symptoms and can only be detected by doing a screening test like a sigmoidoscopy. Removing these polyps may prevent colorectal cancer. It can also be used as a diagnostic test for patients having rectal bleeding, a change in bowel habits, or other symptoms.
A biopsy is a medical procedure that, for most types of cancer, is the only way to make a definitive cancer diagnosis, as it provides the most accurate analysis of tissue. Often, doctors will recommend a biopsy after a physical examination or imaging study, such as an x-ray, has identified a possible tumor.
Tumor markers (also known as biomarkers) are substances found at higher than normal levels in the blood, urine, or body tissue of some people with cancer. Although cancer cells often produce tumor markers, other healthy cells in the body produce them as well.
A pathology report is a medical document written by a pathologist, a doctor who specializes in interpreting laboratory tests and evaluating cells, tissues, and organs to diagnose disease. The report specifies a diagnosis based on the pathologist’s examination of a sample of tissue taken from the patient’s tumor.