Cancer Basics: Understanding the Care Required to Treat Cancer

This is part one of Navigating Cancer Care, a three-part series that will provide cancer treatment basics, including guidance on finding financial assistance for cancer patients.

No matter who the patient is, getting the news that you have cancer is a life-changing moment, one that does not come with a roadmap. Few people realistically anticipate ever receiving that diagnosis, so if it does come, most are not only unprepared for what their next steps should be, but also lack an underlying understanding of cancer treatment basics.

A measure of awareness about what comes after an initial diagnosis can go a long way toward easing patients’ minds and shedding light on the path forward toward health. So what are some of the cancer treatment basics?

Each cancer has to be treated on an individual basis, as the area of the body it is affecting, its level of progression, the person’s age, and many other factors affect a potential treatment plan. In general, however, these are some of the most-common treatment approaches:


This is often the first line of defense against cancers that have yet to fully metastasize, or spread. There are a range of surgery options, from minor to more invasive, depending on the person’s individual case.


Perhaps the treatment most publicly associated with cancer, chemotherapy involves the delivery of a drug regimen to attack and kill cancer cells. The therapy is often associated with side effects such as nausea and hair loss, though symptoms vary widely.

Radiation Therapy:

In this treatment, radiation is used to damage and ultimately kill cancer cells, with the aim of shrinking tumors. Patients can undergo external radiation, delivered through a machine, or internal, which is administered medicinally.

Stem Cell Transplant:

This therapy often follows chemotherapy or radiation, which can have a detrimental effect on a patient’s stem cells. Stem cell transplant replaces the damaged cells with healthy ones to promote recovery.

Finding the right treatment for your particular diagnosis is possible, especially if patients actively advocate for themselves and work with skilled, experienced cancer care teams. Aspects like cost can be an obstacle toward those goals, but with financial assistance for cancer patients, and a healthy dose of education, patients can face their diagnosis head-on.

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