Cancer treatments have dramatically changed, especially in the last few decades. This is largely due to doctors and scientists being able to examine a patient’s genes, where they have begun to discover specific details about a patient’s cancer and develop treatments to target how it grows and spreads.
Unlike chemotherapy, which acts directly on cancerous tumors, immunotherapy acts on the immune system. Immunotherapy can both activate a stronger than normal immune response in the body as well as teach the immune system how to identify and destroy cancer cells. It can stop or slow cancer cell growth, stop the spread of cancer and target cancer cells as foreign.
According to the Cancer Research Institute, immunotherapy can be given alone, or in combination with other types of cancer treatments. And, it’s already proven to be an effective treatment for patients with various types of cancers, making it one of the most promising new cancer treatment approaches since the first chemotherapies were developed in the 1940s.
Like chemotherapy, side effects may vary, usually stem from an overactive immune system and can range from minor inflammation to major conditions that are more like autoimmune disorders. The most common side effects are skin reactions, diarrhea, shortness of breath, mouth sores, fatigue, nausea, body aches, headaches and changes in blood pressure.
Hyatt P. DeGreen III, DO (Tracy) is a board-certified medical oncologist at Lancaster Cancer Center, 1858 Charter Lane, Ste. 202, in Lancaster. For more information, call 717-291-1313 or visit LancasterCancerCenter.com.