What is immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that is categorized under biological therapy or treatment. It involves the use of living tissues or cells to improve your body’s defense system (the immune system) to help fight cancer.
How does immunotherapy work?
Immunotherapy is one of the recent advances by scientists and doctors in their efforts to come up with new ways of destroying cancer cells. There are several different ways through which this type of treatment helps your body fight against cancer.
One of such ways includes marking cancer cells so that your body is able to identify them. Some tumors are able to grow because they grow undetected by the body’s defense mechanism. There are types of immunotherapy treatments that mark these cancer cells and enable your white blood cells to identify and attack them.
Other types of immunotherapies work by improving your immune system and giving it the strength it needs to attack and destroy cancer cells.
What are some of the reasons why you may need to have immunotherapy?
There are many different reasons why people decide to have immunotherapy. The reasons may differ from person-to-person based on various factors such as:
- the type of cancer the patient is having
- the stage of cancer that the patient may have
- the recommendations from one's doctor
The reasons why you may need to have an immunotherapy may include the following:
1. As an alternative cancer treatment option
There are quite a number of treatment options for cancer. Examples of such options include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery. These three treatment methods are the most widely used for cancer.
Unfortunately, there are times when these methods fail to work in treating your tumor, and may, therefore, continue to grow and develop. This is where biological treatment comes in. Immunotherapy is then used as an alternative treatment method to see if it helps in dealing with your cancer.
Your doctors may decide to carry out an immunotherapy treatment to see if your immune system responds to it and gets to work in destroying the malignant cancer tissues. If you begin to show improvements, then the treatment may be used as the major option in helping you get better.
2. Health-related reasons
Some cancer patients may have certain underlying health conditions that may make it difficult for the administration of other cancer treatment methods such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In other cases, surgery may also prove to be impossible due to other health complications that may develop.
During such cases, health care experts may opt to carry out an immunotherapy if it proves to be the best option at hand. The doctors will then come up with a new treatment schedule and a plan on how they are going to administer it. They will also make sure that the patient's health improves and the tumor gets destroyed or at least reduced.
3. To improve your chances of a successful treatment
Cancer affects people differently. There are people who may begin to show early signs of cancer and will be detected and treated before it reaches the advanced stages. Unfortunately, for some people, cancer may continuously grow and remain undetected until it becomes aggressive and difficult to treat.
Your doctors may then decide to use a combination of treatments to improve your odds and give you a greater chance of a successful treatment. Immunotherapy can be combined with other treatment methods. Therefore, immunotherapies also play a role in helping your body to have a better chance of destroying tumors, which could lead to a faster recovery.
4. The type of cancer you have
Many patients who receive immunotherapy are those who have advanced stages of cancer or cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. These patients mostly consider immunotherapy as one of the final options in treating cancer. Moreover, they are usually taken on clinical trials.
However, immunotherapy can also be used to treat small tumors that have not yet spread across the body. If you are diagnosed with these types of cancer, then the doctor may highly recommend that you have immunotherapy.
The early stages of cancer may also be treated and suppressed using immunotherapy treatments. Some types of cancer that may be treated using immunotherapy may include lung cancer, prostate cancer, leukemia, and melanoma, among others.
6. To stop or slow the development of tumors
Immunotherapy can also be administered to slow down the cancer cells' growth rate. For this reason, it may give other treatments a chance to have enough time to destroy the cancer cells. It also stops or prevents cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.
As explained earlier, the process may be achieved by strengthening one's immune system, making it easier for the immune system to detect, attack, and kill cancer cells with ease.
The Bottom Line
Immunotherapy is a recently developed method in the field of cancer treatment. Research is still being done to improve the results that it gives in the treatment of cancer. It shows promising future expectations and any breakthroughs that will be made with it will be a major leap in the treatment of cancer.
Immunotherapy is a treatment method that shows different results from one individual to another. For this reason, some patients will show significant improvements, while others have nothing at all. The response of this treatment is usually slower compared to other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
It may, therefore, take some time, before detectable changes begin to show. However, this does not necessarily mean that the treatment is not working. Most patients usually undergo clinical trials during the time of their treatment.
Some people also develop recurring tumors while undergoing immunotherapy. Before undertaking this type of therapy, talk with your health care team so that they can explain to you your chances of getting the best out of the treatment. You also need to learn about its side effects. Knowing such information will help you decide if you will have it or opt to get other available treatment options.