Chemotherapy (or chemo) has been a cancer treatment since the 1940s. It is the most widely recognized drug that kills cancer cells. Chemo can be administered several ways — orally, topically, by injection, or intravenous. Chemotherapy has toxicities, and each treatment protocol has advantages and disadvantages. Patients also should remember there is no guarantee that an individual will achieve the desired response.


Radiation therapy destroys the genetic material that controls how cells grow and divide. Radiation uses beams of intense energy to kill cancer cells. Most often, radiation therapy uses X-rays; however, protons or other types of energy also can be used. In radiation therapy, healthy and cancerous cells become damaged. However, healthy cells often can repair much of the damage caused by radiation.


Curative surgery involves removing a cancerous tumor. An operation is the first option in treating most firm malignant tumors. The goal of surgery is to eliminate cancer and the healthy tissue surrounding it to prevent the spread of the cancer cells. The extent of the operation (and the outcome) varies according to the type of cancer, the stage of disease, the tumor size, location of cancer, and whether it has metastasized.