Chemotherapy: Strong Drugs to Fight Cancer

If you have cancer, your doctor may give you strong drugs to treat it. Use of these drugs is called “chemotherapy.” Doctors also sometimes call this treatment “chemo.” Many studies have shown that chemotherapy drugs can kill cancer cells. Chemo can also be used with other cancer treatments such as surgery or radiation.

Sometimes chemotherapy can actually cure your cancer. But, in most cases, chemo is used to:

  • Stop the spread of cancer
  • Make the cancer grow slower
  • Relieve pain and other side effects from cancer
  • Kill cancer that has spread elsewhere in the body

Why do doctors use chemotherapy?

Cancer is a normal kind of cell in your body that becomes abnormal. In most cancers, the abnormal cells begin growing very quickly, making more abnormal cells. The cancer cells start growing out of control.

Chemotherapy kills cells that grow fast. That’s why it kills cancer cells, but it can also kill normal cells that grow quickly. Think of the cells that make hair and how quickly hair grows. That’s why people who take chemo often lose their hair. Most normal cells can fix themselves, so a person’s hair can grow back after stopping chemo.

Some of the reasons doctors use chemo include:

  • Shrinking tumors before surgery or radiation• Helping to kill any cancer cells that are left after surgery or radiation• Fighting
  • Helping to kill any cancer cells that are left after surgery or radiation• Fighting the cancer if it comes back
  • Fighting the cancer if it comes back

Does chemo work by itself?

Chemotherapy can be very effective on its own. Many times, however, chemo is part of a treatment plan that includes surgery and radiation therapy.

Most patients get more than one chemo drug. This is called combination chemotherapy. The drugs work together to kill more cancer cells.

Taking chemo drugs

There are many chemo drugs, and there are many ways to take them.

  • Most chemo drugs are given through a tiny plastic tube called a “catheter.” A nurse or doctor will insert the tube into a vein. This is called IV or “intravenous” chemo.
  • Some types of chemo are given in pill or liquid form and swallowed.
  • Other types of chemo are given like a flu shot.
  • Some chemo drugs can be injected into the spine, chest or belly. Some are even rubbed on the skin.

Chemo can be given on different schedules, such as every day, every week, or once a month. It depends on the drug and the type of cancer. Your doctor will usually give you a break between chemo treatments to give your body time to adjust. How long you get chemo depends on the type of cancer you have and how the cancer reacts to the drugs.

Will chemotherapy work?

Your doctor and your treatment team will give you physical exams, blood tests, and x-rays to see how you’re doing. They’ll do their best to tell you about your progress, but don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Regional Cancer Care Associates — Convenient quality cancer care

Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) is committed to giving you easy access to top-quality, comprehensive, leading edge cancer care. We’re the community choice for local convenience that offers high-quality, comprehensive and advanced treatment. At RCCA, we’re one of the nation’s largest cancer care networks — yet we focus on every patient, individually. We’ll make sure your care is second to none.

To schedule an appointment or get more information, call (844) 346-7222. You can also visit the RCCA location nearest you.

Immunotherapy: An Important Advance in Cancer Care

What is immunotherapy? It’s an important new kind of cancer treatment that helps a person’s own immune system fight the disease. Immunotherapy includes drugs and vaccines. It’s sometimes called “biologic” therapy or “biotherapy.” This approach is becoming an increasingly valuable part of today’s cancer treatment.

Your immune system is designed to find and get rid of unhealthy substances like cancer cells. Sometimes your immune system doesn’t work as well as it should. If that happens, immunotherapy can give the immune system something it lacks, such as man-made proteins. This type of immunotherapy can make your body work better against cancer.

In other cases, cancer cells are able to hide from the immune system. They can grow and spread because the immune system can’t find them. Certain immunotherapies can mark cancer cells so the immune system can see and destroy them.

Types of immunotherapy

Some types of immunotherapy boost the body’s immune system in a very general way. Others help train the immune system to attack cancer cells specifically. The types of immunotherapy currently being used include:

  • Monoclonal antibodies. These are man-made versions of immune system proteins. They can be designed to attack a very specific part of a cancer cell. Some monoclonal antibodies are also called “targeted therapy.”
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors. These are drugs that make the immune system more active so it can better find and attack cancer cells.
  • Cancer vaccines. Vaccines are substances that activate the immune system and are often given to healthy people to help prevent infections. Some such vaccines have been in use for many decades, but cancer vaccines are newer. While they are also able to help with prevention in some cases, certain cancer vaccines do more, helping to fight against cancer.

What does immunotherapy treat?

Immunotherapy is one of the fastest-growing areas of cancer research. New therapies are being developed and new cancers are being treated. Some of the cancers currently treated by immunotherapy include:

  • Leukemia
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lymphoma
  • Lung cancer
  • Skin cancer
  • Prostate cancer

How is immunotherapy given?

Immunotherapy can be given in different ways, including:

  • By injection directly into a vein
  • In pills or capsules that are swallowed
  • As a cream that is rubbed onto the skin

Side effects of immunotherapy

Patients considering immunotherapy should be aware that they may experience side effects, including:

  • Skin reactions where the drug or vaccine is injected
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, weakness, dizziness, nausea, aches and pains
  • Swelling and weight gain from retaining fluid
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sinus congestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Infections

Regional Cancer Care Associates — Advanced cancer care close to home

Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) delivers the latest and most advanced cancer care you can get. We also provide the support, education and individualized attention you need. Our highly trained and compassionate cancer doctors — along with our physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists and other team members — are dedicated to your optimal health.

To schedule an appointment, contact the RCCA location nearest you. You can also get more information or schedule an appointment by calling (844) 346-7222.

Targeted Therapy: A New Approach to Cancer Treatment

Doctors use many types of treatments to fight cancer. These include:

  • Removing the cancerous cells with surgery
  • Weakening the cancer with anti-cancer drugs (this is called “chemotherapy”)
  • Bombarding the cancer with high-energy rays

These treatments have been used for many decades. More recently, a new approach has been developed that uses special drugs to target cancer cells directly. This treatment is called “targeted therapy.” Targeted therapy disrupts the way cancer develops and keeps cancer cells from growing.

Targeting patients with precision

Targeted therapy uses drugs, but these drugs are different than the ones used in regular chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is designed to kill tumor cells, however, it can also affect some healthy cells. Targeted drugs, on the other hand, are able to hunt down cancer cells and work on them while leaving most healthy cells alone.

These therapies are an important part of a new type of treatment called “precision medicine.” This approach is being used to treat a number of diseases, including cancer. Precision medicine can use scientific information about a patient’s genes and cell proteins to treat diseases. It can also help diagnose some diseases and even prevent them in some cases.

Different cancers, different therapies

For some types of cancer, doctors know that a targeted therapy will probably work without doing advanced tests. Other types of cancer need to be tested to confirm that targeted therapy can be used. Some of the cancers treated by targeted therapies include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Skin cancer

Targeted therapy includes many kinds of drugs, including these:

Monoclonal antibodies. These drugs are typically made of large molecules that are too big to enter cells. Instead, they are used to block specific targets outside cancer cells, including:

  • Targets on the cell surface
  • Tissues in the area around the cancer

Small-molecule drugs. These smaller-sized drugs can enter cells more easily to block the growth and spread of cancer cells. For example, one type of small-molecule drug keeps tumors from making new blood vessels. These drugs starve the cancer because the blood supply can’t deliver the nutrients the cancer needs to thrive.

Is targeted therapy a better option?

Scientists are working hard to research and develop new targeted therapies because they are helping many patients. However, targeted therapies have some side effects and don’t work for every patient.

Targeted drugs can cause liver problems, including hepatitis and elevated liver enzymes. Other side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Skin problems (rashes, dry skin, nail changes)
  • Problems with blood clotting and wound healing
  • High blood pressure

In addition, cancer cells can become resistant to the drugs. The therapy can then lose effectiveness. Some studies have shown that targeting different parts of cancer cells with different drugs can work better than targeting with only one. Doctors may use two targeted therapy drugs together to maintain effectiveness. Doctors also sometimes use a targeted therapy combined with one or more traditional chemotherapy drugs.

Regional Cancer Care Associates — Cancer care you can trust

At Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA), our doctors deliver top-quality, state-of-the-art treatment close to your home. We are proud of our healthcare teams because they are respected by their peers and trusted by our patients. At RCCA, we will be with you and your loved ones every step of the way, with our nationally-recognized level of cancer care.

Call (844) 346-7222 for more information or to schedule an appointment. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.

Understanding Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is one of the main treatments for many different cancers. This treatment uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells or slow their growth. Radiation is often given with other types of treatment, including surgery and chemotherapy.

Most radiation is direct, localized treatment that causes cancer cells to die or stops them from growing and creating more cancer cells. If normal cells are close by, they can also be affected by radiation. These cells usually heal after the radiation treatments stop.

There are several types of radiation, and sometimes patients can get more than one type of radiation therapy for the same cancer.

  • External radiation. This sends high-energy rays from a machine directly into the cancer. This treatment can be given over a period of several weeks.
  • Internal radiation. This treatment involves putting the patient to sleep or numbing part of the body. A special container holding radioactive material is then implanted in the body near the cancer. The radiation may be high dose or low dose. In some cases, the implant may be taken out and it may be put back in if needed.
  • Radioactive drugs. Sometimes patients are given radioactive drugs to treat their cancer. Some of these drugs can be taken by mouth. Others are injected into a vein. The drugs are able to attach to the cancer cells and kill them with their radiation.

Side effects of radiation

Radiation therapy can have serious side effects. These include:

  • Tiredness, which can get worse as treatment goes on
  • Skin problems such as dryness, flaking and itchiness
  • Hair loss and changes to hair in the area being treated
  • Low blood counts, which can be worsened by chemotherapy
  • Lack of appetite or digestive problems, which can cause poor nutrition
  • Damage to normal cells, including the lungs or heart in some cases
  • Possible increased risk of other types of cancer

Dealing with radiation therapy

Given all of the possible side effects, it can be hard to deal with radiation therapy. Most people’s lives are disrupted. Many patients don’t feel well for weeks or months. Emotions can include anger, fear, frustration and helplessness. Some people may not be able to work or enjoy their free time.

Here are some ways to help yourself during radiation therapy treatment:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Find a support group
  • Get advice from your doctor and healthcare team
  • Rely on friends and family members

Regional Cancer Care Associates — Cancer care you can trust

At Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA), our physicians are respected by their peers and trusted by our patients. Our doctors deliver top-quality, state-of-the-art treatment close to your home. At RCCA, we understand that a cancer diagnosis changes everything. That’s why we’re here, close to your community, to offer you a nationally-recognized level of cancer care.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact us at (844) 346-7222. You can also visit us online to schedule an appointment at the RCCA location nearest you.

Count on RCCA’s Expert Hematology Care for Cancerous and Non-Cancerous Blood Disorders

Our fellowship-trained hematologists have the knowledge, compassion and the extensive experience to diagnose and help you manage cancers of the blood and blood-forming tissues. We also treat non-cancerous hematologic conditions, such as various types of anemia, the thalassemias, von Willebrand disease, polycythemia vera, and other disorders of clotting in adult patients.

What is a hematologic condition? And how can you recognize it?

A hematologic issue is a problem with the blood, and it can affect your overall health. Hematologic problems can occur in the red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, blood vessels, bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, and the proteins involved in bleeding and clotting (hemostasis and thrombosis).

Some symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Frequent headaches
  • Recurrent fever and infections
  • Abnormal bleeding and bruising
  • Excessive blood clotting

Cancers of the blood and blood-forming tissues

Our hematologists treat a range of cancerous conditions, including:

  • Multiple types of leukemia
  • Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Mantle cell lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes/myeloproliferative neoplasms 

Non-cancerous hematologic conditions

We also treat and help patients manage these and other non-cancerous disorders of the blood and blood-forming tissues:

  • Anemia, Fanconi anemia and pernicious anemia
  • Aplastic
  • Hemophilia
  • Polycythemia vera
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Thalassemias
  • Von Willebrand disease

RCCA hematologists also participate in numerous clinical trials; giving many patients access to the latest therapies and treatment strategies. And because managing your condition can require ongoing, even lifelong care, RCCA is where you need us to be, with more than 30 locations throughout New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (844) 346-7222. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.

Groundbreaking Clinical Trials in New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland

RCCA is dedicated to the continual improvement of cancer care — from prevention to treatment through recovery and beyond. Which is why we conduct more than 300 advanced clinical trials.

What are clinical trials?
Clinical trials are carefully designed and managed scientific studies. These trials test new medical therapies (medications, devices, etc.) and their effectiveness in the prevention, detection, diagnosis and cure of diseases. Clinical trials are how all medical therapies, devices and techniques are evaluated for human use. Without clinical trials, new drugs and treatments for cancer would not be investigated, get approved or be available to treat and benefit patients.

Why enroll in a clinical trial?
Although cancer treatments are constantly evolving and advancing, new methods and medications are always in development. These new options provide cancer patients and their families with real hope for improvement, a higher quality of life, and, in many cases, a longer life. Other reasons to consider enrolling in a clinical trial include:

  • Safety – Clinical trials would not occur if not for strict regulations in place to help ensure patient safety. An institutional review board, along with scientific experts, monitor trial protocols.
  • Informed consent – During this process, you can learn all about the trial before deciding if you wish to take part. You will know the trial’s purpose along with possible risks and benefits. Informed consent is critical to ensuring patient safety.
  • Affordability – The cost of care associated with the clinical trial is covered by the company sponsoring the clinical trial.

RCCA always puts your health and safety first
Clinical trials have given thousands of RCCA patients new hope. You can be confident that RCCA oncologists will prioritize your wellness and safety above all else. Our experience in conducting and participating in successful clinical trials begins by developing an individual plan. We work with local physicians to collect your complete medical history and form a treatment plan or protocol. Your treatment plan will contain information on the purpose of the trial, the drugs involved, medical tests to be performed, possible side effects, and some statistics about other people in the clinical trial.

At RCCA, we have the knowledge and expertise to assure the highest quality of care. And with more than 30 locations in New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland, we strive to make innovative treatments and community-based, personalized care as accessible as possible.

To find out if a clinical trial is right for you, or to schedule an appointment, call (201) 510-0950. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.


Find a Clinical Trial

Radiosurgery: Accurate, Precise and Easier on You

Radiosurgery, or radiation surgery, is not “surgery” in the traditional sense. Instead, this technology uses high-dose, precision-focused radiation beams to treat tumors in the brain, neck, lungs and other parts of the body. Its remarkable efficiency can be credited to its ability to target tumors from many different angles — “attacking” them with high doses of radiation with minimal impact on the surrounding healthy tissue.

Shorter treatment times and minimal side effects, too

Radiosurgery’s extreme accuracy, and the high doses of radation it dispenses, usually results in a much shorter treatment cycle compared to other therapies. Most radiosurgery treatments can be completed in one to five daily, successive sessions. Side effects are also minimal. Some swelling may occur, but generally tiredness is the only complaint. Many people maintain normal activities, such as working and driving, during their treatment period.

Radiosurgery is just one of the breakthrough technologies and treatments RCCA oncologists call upon to offer the most advanced and effective treatments for each patient. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call (844) 346-7222. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.

Cancer Surgery Can Be Your Best Option – From Accurate Diagnosis to Successful Treatment

Surgery. The word itself can make anyone feel uneasy. Yet for cancer therapy, it remains the most effective method for diagnosing and treating many types of cancers. And because surgery is the oldest treatment for cancer, it has perhaps benefitted the most from being practiced and advanced.

There are a variety of cancer surgery types. The surgery performed depends on where the cancer is located, its stage, the amount of tissue to be removed and other factors. Based on your individual case, one of the following procedures may be recommended:

  • Preventive – Performed to remove precancerous or other at-risk tissue before it develops into cancer.
  • Diagnostic– Commonly known as a biopsy, a doctor surgically removes suspicious cells, which are then examined to determine whether or not they are cancerous. This is often the only way to diagnose cancer.
  • Staging – Performed to assess how much cancer is present, and how far it has spread. During staging surgery, the area around the cancer, including lymph nodes and nearby organs, are examined. The results are vital to guiding your treatment plan
  • Curative– If cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of the body, it’s possible to remove all malignant cells, effectively curing you of cancer. Curative surgery is often performed in combination with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
  • Debulking– When removing all your cancer would cause irreparable damage to nearby tissue, surgeons can remove part of the tumor. The remaining cancer cells are then treated with radiation or chemotherapy.
  • Palliative– When cancer has advanced beyond all options to treat or cure, surgery can be helpful in relieving pain or other symptoms.
  • Supportive– Makes performing other cancer treatments more convenient for the surgeon and more comfortable for you. For example, a device can be inserted under the skin that gives your oncologist easy access to your bloodstream instead of piercing your skin on a regular basis.
  • Restorative– Cancer surgery can alter physical appearance and even physical function. Reconstructive procedures can successfully restore, and even improve, both.

Through the strength and scope of the RCCA oncology physician network, we partner with some of the most trusted, experienced and highly capable surgeons in the three states we serve. We will connect you with a local, top-rated surgeon who share our dedication for meticulous coordination of care.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (844) 346-7222. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.

What is Genetic Testing?

Genetic testing is a way to find out if a person has a change in his or her genes that’s called a “mutation.” If your doctor recommends taking a genetic test for a specific cancer, it’s to find out if you have a cancer-related mutation. If you do, you may be more likely to develop that type of cancer.

For some kinds of cancer, if you already have that cancer, genetic testing can help doctors decide on the right treatment. The tests can also help evaluate the risk of getting other cancers.

Some people get genetic tests if certain cancers run in their family, particularly if their mother or father had one of those cancers. It’s possible that the test will show an inherited gene mutation—but be aware that genetic testing doesn’t always provide a clear answer.

It’s also important to know that genetic testing will not tell you if you have cancer. The test can only see if you might have a gene mutation that can increase cancer risk.

Doctors have identified gene mutations that cause some inherited types of cancer. About 10% of breast cancer cases and about 20% of ovarian cancers seem to be inherited. Overall, about 5% to 10% of all cancers are connected to inherited gene mutations.

Is genetic testing right for me?

It’s important to talk about genetic testing with your doctor. Even if you have a mutation that’s connected with cancer, you may never get cancer. Also, many gene mutations have nothing to do with cancer. So, before agreeing to get a test, be aware that genetic testing has pros and cons.

Pros:

  • The test can show that you don’t have an increased risk of getting cancer.
  • On the other hand, the test may show that you do have greater risk of cancer. These results can be helpful in managing your risk, such as by starting healthier behaviors.

Cons:

  • Genetic testing doesn’t always give a clear “yes” or “no” answer about cancer risk. Sometimes the test doesn’t say one way or the other.
  • Some people aren’t good candidates for genetic testing.
  • Genetic testing can be expensive, especially if it’s not covered by insurance.

What else should I know?

Genetic testing usually isn’t painful. The doctor will either take a blood sample or cheek swab. Sometimes a tissue sample is needed.

It usually takes about 2-3 weeks to get genetic test results. However, talk with your doctor if the situation is urgent because genetic testing can sometimes be done more quickly.

Regional Cancer Care Associates — Cancer care you can trust

The expert healthcare team at Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) has the knowledge and experience to help you make difficult medical decisions. We’re respected by our peers and trusted by our patients. At RCCA, we understand that a cancer diagnosis changes everything. That’s why we’re here for you, delivering top-quality, state-of-the-art treatment close to your home.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call (844) 346-7222. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.

Palliative Care: Coping with Late Stage Cancer

Modern medicine has made remarkable progress in recent decades. Cancer treatment is a great example of the advancements that doctors and scientists have achieved. Cancer patients are living longer. Some cancers can now be cured.

Not every type of cancer can be treated, however, and some cancers are hard to detect early. When a cancer has spread throughout the body, treatment may no longer work. Whether that happens or not, some patients live with late stage cancer for years. Those people need to be comfortable and keep their spirits up. Palliative care can be an option for those people.

Palliative care doesn’t treat the disease. The goal is not to cure. Instead, it treats the symptoms and side effects of the disease. It also can sometimes treat the side effects of therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

This type of care is also called “comfort care,” “supportive care,” or “symptom management.” Patients can get information about nearby palliative care services from their RCCA team.

Palliative care takes many forms

Here are some of the ways palliative care can help:

  • Symptom relief. Many late stage cancer patients have symptoms such as pain, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, or shortness of breath. Some people have trouble sleeping. These symptoms don’t always come from the cancer. They can be caused by patients’ chemotherapy, radiation therapy or even surgery that’s done to keep the cancer under control.

    Palliative care can include giving pain medication or other medicine to help with these symptoms. These medicines can be taken along with the cancer control treatments. Patients can also get nutritional therapy, physical therapy and alternative therapies of various kinds for their symptoms.

  • Practical help. Cancer is hard to deal with, but sometimes you also have to deal with financial issues or have trouble with health insurance or other parts of the healthcare system. You may have trouble working or be unable to work. Palliative care may be able to help with these issues. RCCA care professionals can help find resources, counselors and organizations that can provide support.
  • Emotional and spiritual support. Cancer patients often feel fear, anxiety and confusion. Some people get depressed. Family and friends may not know what to say or how to cope. For all these reasons, it makes sense to get help. Experts can provide counseling. Support groups can be a place to talk and share emotions.

Can palliative care help your caregivers?

Cancer can make caregivers more important than ever. Having support from the people you love makes a huge difference. But those people may need help too. Sometimes caregivers don’t know what to say. They may not know how to cope with all the new things they need to do. Palliative care can help, offering support and comfort in many ways.

Is palliative care the same as hospice care?

Hospice care is usually given during the final six months of life. Palliative care can start much sooner, even while the patient is receiving treatment. The goal is to help patients deal with physical and emotional pain and other cancer challenges.

Regional Cancer Care Associates — Cancer care you can trust

Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) delivers the support, education and individualized attention you need. Your highly trained, experienced and compassionate cancer doctors — along with your physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists and other team members — are dedicated to your optimal health. At RCCA, we focus on every patient and work with you and your family to give you the finest care available.

To schedule an appointment, contact the RCCA location nearest you. You can also get more information or schedule an appointment by calling (844) 346-7222.