CancerCancer Treatment

Let's Talk About Cancer Treatment

Determining the best possible treatment plan and managing any side effects are among your top concerns. We'll help you turn a sense of overwhelm into calm action.

    Our Pro PanelCancer Treatment

    We went to some of the nation's top experts in cancer to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Swati Kulkarni, M.D. headshot.

    Swati Kulkarni, M.D.Surgical Oncologist, Associate Professor of Surgery

    Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern Medicine
    Chicago, IL
    Nina Sanford, M.D.

    Nina Sanford, M.D.Radiation Oncologist, Assistant Professor

    Dedman Family Scholar in Clinical Care, UT Southwestern Medical Center
    Dallas, TX
    Lidia Schapira, M.D.

    Lidia Schapira, M.D.Medical Oncologist, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Director of Cancer Survivorship

    Stanford Comprehensive Cancer Institute
    Stanford, CA

    Frequently Asked QuestionsCancer Treatment

    How effective is immunotherapy for cancer?

    While immunotherapy isn’t a good treatment for every cancer patient, clinical studies have shown that patients who have this therapy have “durable” results, meaning they continue to experience good outcomes after treatment is finished.

    How does radiation kill cancer?

    Here’s how it works: radiation damages the DNA of cancerous cells, thwarting their ability to pass their genetic material on to new cancerous cells. It can destroy the DNA directly, or it can create particles called free radicals that act like an army of soldiers that destroy the invading cancer cells.

    Is there a natural treatment option for cancer?

    You might be surprised to learn that some cancer treatment types do come from nature. Take chemotherapy for example. Three drugs (Vincristine, Vinblastine, and Vinorelbine) derive from plant alkaloids, and are made from the periwinkle plant (catharanthus rosea). Chemo drugs called taxanes (Paclitaxel and Docetaxel) come from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree (taxus). Podophyllotoxins (Etoposide and Tenisopide), another type of chemotherapy, are made from May apple plant. So the natural world is present in perhaps the very chemo drug you’re on.

    How does chemotherapy work?

    It targets rapidly developing cancer cells (which tend to grow more quickly than normal cells), stopping them from replicating. One big problem with this treatment, however, is that chemotherapy can’t distinguish between cancerous or healthy cells, so it attacks both indiscriminately. Which is why this drug therapy can have so many side effects, from hair loss to nausea. It’s a balance between receiving enough chemo to kill mutated cancer cells, to stop them from growing, while protecting healthy cells.

    Erin L. Boyle

    Erin L. Boyle


    Erin L. Boyle, the senior editor at HealthCentral from 2016-2018, is a freelance medical writer and editor.