Treatments, Tests, and Procedures
Learn more about the specific medical tests and procedures used to diagnose and treat cancer.
Although a stem cell transplant (sometimes called a bone marrow transplant) is an effective treatment for several types of cancer, it can cause a number of different side effects. The type and intensity of these side effects vary from person to person and depend on the kind of transplant performed, the person's overall health, and other factors. Your health care team will work with you to prevent side effects or manage any that occur. This is called palliative or supportive care and is an important part of your overall treatment plan. Be sure to talk with your health care team about any side effects you experience, including new symptoms or a change in symptoms.
Stem cell transplantation is a procedure that is most often recommended as a treatment option for people with leukemia, multiple myeloma, and some types of lymphoma. It may also be used to treat some genetic diseases that involve the blood.
A bone marrow biopsy and aspiration is a diagnostic examination of the bone marrow that can provide information about the development and function of blood cells.
More than 44,000 blood donations are needed every day, according to the American Red Cross. Many of these donations are given as blood transfusions to people with cancer. A blood transfusion is a procedure in which blood or a blood component is transferred from one individual (donor) to another (recipient). Cancer treatmentsTypes of Treatment, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and bone marrow transplantation, or the cancer itself may cause the need for a transfusion. A person may choose to donate whole blood or specific parts of the blood, such as platelets or red blood cells.
A vaccine helps the body fight disease. Most people are familiar with vaccines for diseases like chicken pox or the flu. Vaccines (sometimes called vaccinations) help train the immune system to recognize and destroy harmful substances, such as bacteria or viruses, before they can cause disease.
Doctors and scientists conduct research studies to discover more about the biology of cancer, investigate new treatments and diagnostic tests, and learn how to prevent the disease. Depending on the questions they want to answer, researchers can design these studies in a number of ways. No study design is perfect; each has strengths and drawbacks. Therefore, it is important to understand a study's design so you can evaluate the results and know if they apply to your situation.
Publishing research studies is the primary way scientific professionals use to communicate their findings. They may publish original research or write a review article, which evaluates the existing body of published research on a particular topic. Well-designed research studies can help answer important questions about the biology of cancer, investigate new treatments, and identify areas for further study.
When a person is diagnosed with cancer, the oncologist (a doctor who specializes in treating people with cancer) recommends a treatment plan that is most likely to have the greatest benefits and the fewest risks or side effects. That initial treatment—called first-line treatment or first-line therapy—is usually chosen because it has proven to be effective for similar patients who have the same type and stage of 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.