Cancer Treatment Classifications
The treatments you receive for your cancer will fall under a particular classification based on the intent of the intervention. To help you better understand the purpose of your treatments, here are the various classifications.
Conventional cancer care
Conventional cancer care generally refers to the traditional cancer management strategies of surgery, radiation treatment, and anti-cancer drug therapy (chemotherapy, biotherapy, and targeted agents), which are intended to cure or manage cancer. This term may also be extended to include standard medications used routinely in cancer care, such as pain medications and anti-nausea drugs.
Complementary cancer care
Complementary cancer care generally refers to a group of interventions that complement, or are added to, conventional cancer care. An example of complementary care may be acupuncture to reduce the side effects of treatment. The basic goal with complementary care is to optimize quality of life by addressing physical and emotional well-being.
Neoadjuvant therapy for cancer
Neoadjuvant therapy refers to the administration of an anti-cancer therapy program (generally chemotherapy) before curative treatment like surgery is undertaken. Neoadjuvant treatment may be considered if the size of the cancer prohibits complete surgical removal of the mass or renders surgery too invasive.
Following several cycles of chemotherapy, it may be possible to accomplish surgical removal with fewer side effects and a more favorable outcome, including easier recovery with fewer complications and improved appearance because less tissue is removed.
The use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy is now routinely used in a number of clinical settings, including in cancers of the breast, ovaries, and head and neck region. This approach may also permit more patients to have a chance at a cure by making surgery accessible to them.
Adjuvant therapy for cancer
Adjuvant therapy refers to a strategy employed after curative treatment is undertaken and is currently a routine component of cancer care in multiple settings, including in cancers of the breast, colon, and lungs. The basic goal of adjuvant therapy (generally chemotherapy) is to kill any remaining cancer cells that are unable to be seen after the tumor has been removed.
There’s no way of knowing if you actually have any residual cancer cells in your body after you complete treatment, but extensive clinical evidence has indicated that there is a reasonable risk of this being the case. Therefore, the intent of adjuvant treatment is to kill these microscopic cancer deposits before they have the opportunity to grow and spread to other regions of your body.
Integrative cancer care
Integrative cancer care refers to an approach to cancer management that includes, or integrates, both conventional and complementary cancer care.
Alternative cancer care
Alternative cancer care refers to approaches that are unproven and used instead of conventional medical treatment. An example would be a special diet to treat or manage cancer in place of a method recommended by a medical oncologist. Such approaches aren’t recommended, because there’s no evidence to support them.
In fact, delaying conventional treatment to pursue an alternative therapy may allow your cancer to become more advanced and more difficult to treat or manage. Current knowledge indicates that the best outcomes occur when conventional and complementary medicine are brought together to develop an integrative strategy.
Palliative cancer care
Palliative cancer care refers to approaches that focus on alleviating the symptoms of cancer instead of on treating the cancer itself. This may include a variety of strategies.
For example, if you have pain from a large cancer, you may undergo surgery to remove that mass to improve the pain, or the symptoms may be alleviated by radiating the mass to shrink it enough to reduce pain, or you may receive pain medications to dull the pain.
Receiving palliative care doesn’t mean you can’t at the same time receive active treatment; palliative care doesn’t mean hospice care. Recent research has shown that, in some cases, palliative treatment may not only improve quality of life, but also favorably influence survival.
Hospice care for cancer patients
Hospice care refers to treatments and measures taken when therapy directed at treating the cancer has been determined to be of no further value. At this point, the focus of care shifts to providing symptom relief and ensuring comfort. Hospice care can also refer to certain governmental and private insurance plans that provide specific benefits when it’s determined that further treatment is no longer desired or indicated.