Your cancer care team or specialist will discuss your treatment plan with you and what it will involve, such as what type of treatment you will receive and how often you will receive it. You can always bring a support person (e.g. whānau or friend) with you to these appointments. If you have any questions, your cancer care team or specialist are your best advisors.
Below is some general information on different types of treatment. The kind of treatment you receive will depend on several factors, including your specific cancer and needs.
Cancer surgery is when a surgeon removes the tumour from your body. The specific type of surgery received depends on the type of cancer. Always ask your surgeon about what to expect and any other questions you might have about the surgery.
Radiotherapy (radiation therapy)
Radiotherapy treats cancer by using x-rays or other types of radiation. There are two main types of radiotherapy:
External beam radiotherapy
External beam radiotherapy (EBRT) is the most common form of radiotherapy. Beams are generated by a machine called a linear accelerator (also known as LINACs), and are specifically targeted at the cancer being treated, so other surrounding tissues are not too affected.
There are several types of EBRT. Your cancer care team will discuss this with you, including how much radiation is needed to treat your cancer and how often you need to get it.
You won't feel anything during treatment, but you will hear the machine make sounds.
Brachytherapy is a procedure that involves radiation delivered in a small source (smaller than a grain of rice) that is implanted near or in the cancer.
For some people, the small source of radiation will be put in the body for a short amount of time. Others will have a small source of radiation put in their body permanently. Once the small source of radiation has been put in the body, the person can go home.
Chemotherapy (also known as 'chemo') is a type of treatment that uses drugs to destroy the cancer or to slow growth of cancer.
Chemotherapy is used to treat a wide range of cancers. Sometimes this is the only treatment needed, but it is often used with other cancer treatment types such as surgery and radiation therapy.
Immunotherapy uses drugs that help the body's immune system to attack the cancer. The immune system fights infections and abnormal cell development in the body.
Immunotherapy can give the immune system a boost to work against the cancer or to remove barriers to the immune system attacking the cancer.
Targeted therapy uses a drug that attacks specific characteristics of the cancer to try and stop the cancer cells from growing and spreading.
Some cancers, such as breast, prostate and uterine cancers, use hormones that can encourage the cancer to grow. Hormone therapy targets these hormones to slow down or stop the growth of cancer.
Complementary therapies can be used alongside conventional medical treatments. They can help people feel better and improve their quality of life. Some complementary therapies include:
- Rongoā Māori
- Pacific traditional healing
- herbal medicine
- massage therapy.
Complementary therapies might also help people to cope with cancer symptoms and the side effects of cancer treatment better.
Rongoā Maori Providers
Rongoā Māori is a body of knowledge, systems and practices that enhances Māori wellbeing. Rongoā Māori differs from a Western medical paradigm in that it incorporates holistic views of health including whānau, hinengaro (mind), wairua (soul), mauri (life essence), ngā atua and te taiao (the environment).
There are many providers across the country that deliver rongoā services. These services can include mirimiri (massage), karakia (pastoral support) and whitiwhiti kōrero (cultural support).
To contact a Rongoā Maori provider, click here or contact the Māori health team at your local hospital.
Palliative care focuses on providing quality of life for as long as possible. It can be offered at the hospital, rest home, hospice or home.
Palliative care can help people manage their cancer symptoms and side effects of treatment. Palliative care can also help with people's physical, practical, emotional and spiritual needs.