Other Cancer Treatments

Researchers are constantly searching for better ways to treat cancer. Some of their discoveries have proven to be lifesavers. For example, leukemia was once considered incurable. Today bone marrow transplants give hope to thousands of leukemia victims.

Immunotherapy works to use the body's own defense system to fight cancer. It uses substances designed to strengthen the patient's immune system and make it more effective in rec ognizing and attacking cancer cells. Vaccines are also used to stimulate the immune system. Interferons, chemical messengers used to fight viruses, inhibit tumor cells from reproducing. Hormonal treatments are also under study. Hormones are substances secreted by certain glands that pass into the blood and stimulate the action of specific organs. It has been shown that certain hormones made by the testes and ovaries can influence the growth of tumors in the breast and prostate. Today, instead of surgically removing the testes or ovaries, drugs are used to block the effects of these hormones.

Although there are other new and potentially helpful treatments being studied by researchers, in general, doctors and cancer treatment facilities do not accept alternative treatments. These treatments include special diets, medicines made from various plants, and vitamin supplements. The National Cancer Institute is constantly reviewing and testing alternative treatments to weigh their possible benefits against the possibility of their doing harm. Most doctors agree that trying to cure cancer with alternative therapies alone may keep patients from receiving standard treatments that have been proven effective.

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