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Cancer – Surgery, Radiation and Systemic Therapy

February 2, 2021


“So when you’re thinking about the different tools to manage cancer, we generally have three specialties in a box that is our toolbox on how we’re going to go about treating the cancer, whether in a curative setting or in a palliative setting. And those involve surgery, radiation, and what we call systemic therapy, which will be either chemotherapy or immune therapy, usually something IV or a pill that you take by mouth. Now, your medical oncologist, they’re usually the quarterback that basically sees everything out with the cancer. So even if you’re cured, they’ll be the one doing the CT scans and the imaging, just to make sure it’s gone, to ask you the questions to check for recurrence. And they’re the one that manages a plan that may need to refer you to radiation or to surgery, or sometimes interventional radiologists who can use like radiation beads or different interventions to cut off blood supply to the tumor.

But it’s a big collaborative effort. So radiation and surgery can be used in a definitive or curative manner upfront in a basically curable disease. So stage one to three, that can also be used in a neoadjuvant setting the radiation to shrink a tumor, to then be able to make it surgically resectable, or they can both be used palliatively. So sometimes you need surgery say to a rectal cancer that may be keeping you from having bowel movements, or you might need radiation, even though you have what’s called systemic or stage four disease, you may want to nuke, just one or two spots that are behaving differently than the rest of the cancer and hopes to continue a systemic therapy line that you have. So there’s all kinds of ways you can be creative with it between these three specialties, medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, as well as interventional radiology for those measures, but just realize that it’s collaborative and you’ll be seeing these different doctors for different things, depending on how to keep control on the cancer the best.”

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