What are the different types of treatments for cancer?

By: Rukmini Chopra

Published On: October 16, 2018

There are several treatment options for cancer. It’s important to know about them to understand which one is applicable to you or your loved one. Read on…

Gone are the days when cancer used to be a rare disease to affect one and all. Today, the disease is so common that it constitutes the list of ‘lifestyle diseases.’ Owing to our stressful lives, bad eating habits, bad lifestyle habits such as drinking and smoking, etc. many us are falling prey to this deadly disease. 


However, cancer is unpredictable and can strike anyone without any particular cause per say. Cancer if detected in time, is curable. However if not, it is responsible for affecting at least 2.5 million and resulting in 5,56,400 deaths every year. 

There are over 7 lakh registered cases of cancer every year in India. With such alarming statistics, it is obvious that Indians need to be more aware about cancer and take precautionary and preventive measures. 

However god forbid if we or are loved ones ever suffer from the same, we should be aware of the treatment options for cancer. Having a knowledge about medical cancer treatment is a must. Here are the different types of treatments for cancer: 

1: Chemotherapy


This type of cancer treatment uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy works by slowing down the growth of cancer cells or completely stopping it. This form of treatment can also be used to shrink tumors that are causing pain and other issues. 

It is important to note that chemotherapy can cause certain side effects such as nausea, hair loss, vomiting, and mouth sores. The most common side effect of chemotherapy is extreme fatigue. 

These side effects reduce and completely go away after the end of chemotherapy sessions. 

Chemotherapy is given in these forms: 

  • Oral: Pills, capsules or liquids
  • Intravenous: Directly into vein

  • Injection: Given by a shot in the arm, thigh,leg, belly etc. 

  • Intrathecal: Injected into space between the layers of tissue covering brain and spinal cord 

  • Intraperitoneal: Given in the peritoneal cavity, which is the area in your body containing organs such as liver, stomach and intestines. 

  • Intra- arterial: Injected into the artery leading to cancer 

  • Topical: In the form of cream that a patient rubs on the skin 

2: Radiation therapy


A type of cancer treatment that involves using radiation to kill cancer cells or shrink tumours. 

There are two kinds of radiation therapies 

External beam radiation therapy

This type of radiation therapy is done through a machine, that doesn’t come in touch with your skin, but emits beams of radiation targeted to treat your cancer. It treats a specific part of your body, say if you have cancer in your kidney, lungs etc. 

Internal radiation therapy 

This type of radiation is done by putting the radiation inside your body. This can either be in the form of a solid or liquid. 

The types of cancers that are usually treated with radiation therapy include head and neck, breast, cervix, prostate, eye and certain kinds of thyroid cancer.

Radiation therapy can cause side effects, but that depends on what type of cancer one is getting treated. You can refer to the chart of side effects here



It is a procedure of removing a cancerous tumor from the body. While the traditional form of surgery involves cutting open a body part with scalpels and knives, there are other unconventional forms of surgery such as: 


In this form of surgery, extreme cold created by liquid nitrogen or argon gas is used to destroy abnormal tissue. This kind of cancer is used to treat skin cancer, retinoblastoma etc. 

Laser surgery 

This form of surgery includes the usage of powerful laser beams to cut through tissue. Lasers can be used for precise surgeries or to destroy or shrink tumors. 

Photodynamic surgery 

This treatment involves the usage of drugs that reacts to a certain type of light. The tumor is exposed to the light to make the drugs active and kill the nearby cancer cells. 


In this treatment, small areas of the body are exposed to high temperatures. The high heat can damage cancer cells. 

There are certain risks involved with surgery that include: 

  • Pain: One can experience pain after the completion of the surgery. It depends on how extensive the surgery was. 
  • Infection: One can develop infection after the surgery. However this is avoidable if you thoroughly follow the doctor’s instructions for post-operative care. 


 immunotherapyThis form of treatment uses one’s immune system to fight cancer. There are different forms of immunotherapy 

1: Adoptive cell transfer

It boosts the natural ability of your T cells to fight cancer. In this procedure, cancer cells are taken from your tumor and those most active amongst them are grown in large batches in the lab. 

2: Checkpoint inhibitors

It involves the usage of drugs that can help the immune system tackle cancerous tumor more strongly. The drugs do not target the tumor directly but interfere with the ability of cancer cells to attack one’s immune system. 

3: Monoclonal antibodies

These are immune system proteins created in the lab. These antibodies are designed to target specific areas affected by cancer. 

4: Treatment vaccines

These boost your immune system to fight cancer cells. The most common side effects of immunotherapy include swelling, redness, itchiness, pain, fever, nausea, fatigue, headache etc. 

Immunotherapy is given through methods such as oral, intravenous, topical (as explained above) and Intravesical which involves injecting immunotherapy straight into the bladder. 

Targeted therapy


This form of treatment targets the changes in cancer cells that helps them grow, divide and spread. There are two kind of targeted therapy: 

  • Small molecule drugs: These are small enough to enter the cells 
  • Monoclonal antibodies: These cannot enter the cells hence attach themselves to the outer layer of cancer cells. 

The most common side effects of targeted therapy include diarrhea, mouth sores, fatigue, loss of hair, skin problems etc. 

Hormone therapy

hormone-therapyThis kind of therapy tops of the growth of cells that make use of hormones to grow within the body. The common side effects in this kind of therapy include hot flashes, weakened bones, nausea, enlarged or tender breasts etc. 

Stem cell transplant 

This procedure helps in restoring blood-forming stem cells in patients whose cells have been destroyed through high doses of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. 

The types of cell transplant include: 

  • Autologous: Stem cells come from the patient 

  • Allogenic: Stem cells come from someone else. The donor may be a blood relative or otherwise 

  • Syngeneic: Stem cells come from your identical twin 

The common side effects of stem cell transplants include appetite loss, constipation, fatigue, hair loss, infections, sleep trouble, urinary problems etc. 

Precision medicine


Image credit: WizardHealth

This form of treatment includes the doctor prescribing certain medication according to the type of cancer the patient is suffering from. 

How crowdfunding can help

Cancer treatment in India is exorbitant; chemotherapy sessions can cost anywhere between Rs. 20 lakhs to 30 lakhs and a surgery can exceed this amount. Most Indians do not have insurance covers and many of them aren’t eligible for loans, owing to their poor economic backgrounds. 

They are forced to borrow money from their friends and relatives, thereby facing the pressure of returning the funds.  However, crowdfunding is providing to be a much needed relief for such helpless souls.

You can ask each person to contribute a certain amount to reach the goal amount. Many Indians have benefitted from crowdfunding on Impact Guru. You can read the success stories here

Crowdfunding is saving millions of lives and making several dreams come true. Do you wish to be a part of this movement? Start your fundraiser here

We suggest you also read: 

What Are The Symptoms Of Lung Cancer?

 Cancer Symptoms And Causes: Getting The Basics Right 

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