Frequently Asked Questions About Cancer Treatment

When it comes to being diagnosed with cancer, there are a lot of myths and rumors that can make it difficult for patients to make decisions about their treatment. Here are some common questions people ask about cancer treatment. You should feel comfortable asking your doctor any questions you may have about starting your treatment.

How is cancer treated?

Some of the major ways we treat cancer are surgery, medicine or chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy. Sometimes a patient might need a combination of these. No matter what your treatment plan, you will have access to the highest-quality treatments right here in Baton Rouge.

How will my doctor decide how to treat my cancer?

The type and stage of cancer, any prior treatment and several other factors will determine what type of cancer treatment you will need. Your doctor will consider your personal preferences and make recommendations based on experience, research and what the goal of treatment is, like whether it can be controlled or cured. There are many standards and guidelines that help patients and their providers make the very best choices about treatment and care.

What are the side effects of cancer treatment?

  • Chemo: Side effects of chemo can include short-term nausea, vomiting, hair loss and mouth sores. These side effects are often treatable. Your cancer team will work with you to manage the side effects of chemo and as soon as treatment is complete, most side effects stop. Hair usually grows back after your treatment is over.
  • Radiation: While going through radiation, some patients experience skin irritation at the treatment site and fatigue. Fatigue can cause low energy that can last throughout treatment and sometimes for many weeks after treatment is complete.

Does cancer treatment hurt?

When someone has cancer, pain can be an issue. Whether it's caused by the cancer or the treatment itself, you can work with your doctor make sure that your pain is controlled. Controlling your pain is essential to your treatment.

  • Surgery: Often, the surgical removal of cancer or a tumor can cause pain in the area of the surgery. This is typically related to nerve injury that can take place during the surgery itself and will usually subside over time.
  • Radiation: This type of treatment can cause irritation and a burning sensation on the skin where the radiation is being done. Sometimes other uncomfortable symptoms might include mouth sores, fatigue and diarrhea.
  • Chemo: Nausea, fatigue, infection nerve pain are common causes of discomfort during chemotherapy. Many patients can use medication or relaxation techniques that help ease these side effects.

Pain medications can be prescribed as well as taking over the counter medications for pain during treatment. It is important to talk to your doctor about long-term side effects of these medications before taking them.

Can cancer treatment be dangerous?

When it comes to deciding to getting cancer treatment, many people are fearful that treatment can be worse than cancer and they might not get treated. It is important for a person who is concerned about side effects or health concerns due to treatment to understand the likely outcomes of being treated or not being treated before making a decision.

What might happen to me if I do not get treatment?

If left untreated, cancer and it's symptoms will get worse and build up over time. The longer treatment is put off and more serious symptoms begin, cancer may become less and less treatable. Cancer kills by invading organs such as your lungs, intestines, brain liver and kidneys and interferes with bodily functions necessary to live. Cancer that is left untreated commonly causes death.

What does "remission" mean?

When going through treatment, remission can mark a major change in your cancer journey and health. The word remission is often thought of a point of being done with treatment, but it is actually more complicated than that.

Partial remission means that the cancer is still there, however your tumor has gotten smaller or that you have less cancer in your body. This means you will still need to continue to check but it also may mean you can take a break as long as the cancer does not start to grow again.

Complete remission means that all tests and scans show that all signs of your cancer are gone. While this doesn't necessarily mean you are "cured" it is often referred to as "no evidence of disease (NED)".

Are there any clinical trials available at Pennington Cancer Center for my type of cancer?

Clinical trials are research studies with volunteers that test new treatments to see if they are safe and how well they work. These studies may also test new ways to find or prevent a disease, and have led to many new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. To see which clinical trials Pennington Cancer Center is currently participating in, click here.