If you or someone you love is diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, it is important for you to understand that you are likely to be facing a difficult, long, and expensive road ahead. Stage 4 cancer refers to the time when a person's cancer has spread to another part of their body through a process called metastasis.
Often referred to as "advanced" cancer, metastatic cancer typically marks a change in treatment from fighting to delay the growth of the tumor and/or mollify existing symptoms to attempts to kill the tumor and allow it to die naturally. Although treatment options in Stage 4 are not always different from those used to treat Stage 3 cancer, they often involve a variety of additional treatments and/or drugs, which are aimed at stopping further metastases and prolonging the life of the patient. Most of these additional treatments and/or drugs are not considered necessary, but they are usually very expensive and may require surgery or radiation therapy to treat.
Metastases are a problem when they start to spread. When they do, there is often no way to halt them or prevent them from spreading to other areas of your body. This is why many cancer patients are advised to undergo surgery in order to either remove the tumors or to kill them and prevent them from spreading to a new location, even if they have already been removed surgically.
Chemotherapy is one of the most common forms of treatment for cancers like breast cancer and melanoma, both of which are known to cause metastases. Chemotherapy works by attacking the tumor itself, and sometimes by destroying the surrounding tissue around it as well. Chemotherapy is often combined with radiation therapy and often used in combination with surgery. Chemotherapy has many benefits, but is extremely costly, and can often lead to side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, hair loss, skin irritation, and stomach and bowel problems.
Other types of alternative cancer treatments include surgery (chemo-surgery) and targeted drug therapies (targeted chemotherapy). Surgery has a wide range of uses, including treating breast cancer that has spread to the bones and lung, melanoma, bladder cancer, prostate, lung, colorectal, pancreatic, and liver cancer, all of which are very dangerous but relatively harmless in the early stages; and also in the case of advanced prostate cancer, which can be very dangerous if left untreated.
In targeted drug therapies, drugs are taken orally, intravenously or subcutaneously, either alone or in combination, which target specific cancer cells. Some of these cancer drugs include:
Immunotherapy is a type of targeted drug therapy that involves using one or more kinds of antibody. As part of a cancer treatment plan, antibodies are directed at specific cancer cells. These cells, called T cell receptor antigens, bind to the tumor and cause the cell to release a specific molecule known as an antibody. Antibodies in turn attack the tumor and destroy the tumor, causing the cell to die.
There are a number of other alternative cancer treatments that you can try
Some of these include: laser therapy, photodynamic therapy, radical prostatectomy, or percutaneous nephrostomy. These are not approved by the FDA and so the side effects are unknown.
If your doctor prescribes chemotherapy or surgery, ask him about alternative cancer treatments, such as naturopathy, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine, or vitamins. It is important to keep an open mind when considering alternative treatment options, because every person's body reacts differently to different treatments, and each one has its own healing properties.
When considering alternative cancer treatments, make sure you get all the information possible about the particular therapy, including what the side effects might be. Because some people experience side effects that vary from person to person, you should ask your doctor to discuss them with you.
A word of caution, however, when using any alternative cancer treatments, such as naturopathy, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine, or herbs, keep in mind that they are usually only used in conjunction with, or in addition to, conventional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgery. Don't use them to replace, add, or improve the effectiveness of your current cancer treatment, as they may make it harder to control your cancer.