Treatment

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Australia accounting for approximately 27% of all deaths.

The management options for the treatment of cancer are complex. These options include surgery, radiotherapy and drug treatments involving hormones or Chemotherapy (cell poisoning agents) and immune modulators. The most effective method of treatment of an individual cancer varies, but quite often it involves a multidisciplinary approach, utilising one or more forms of treatment, either simultaneously or consecutively.

Cancer treatment may be administered to patients for curative purposes but may also be given to aide in the palliation of symptoms (pain reduction).

Your Doctor will recommend the most effective means of treatment of your cancer, taking into consideration the exact nature and location of your cancer and all the available current evidence. It is important to remember that the ultimate decision as to how you are treated lies with you, the patient.

Medical Oncology Services

Chemotherapy and Hormone Therapy have complementary roles to the use of surgery and radiotherapy, both in the initial treatment and in the palliation of symptoms.

  • Chemotherapy and Hormone Therapy are predominantly aimed at trying to kill or stabilize the tumour growth

  • Chemotherapeutic drugs are essentially cell-poisoning agents whereas hormone therapies are growth-restraining agents

  • Other forms of drugs currently used in the treatment of cancer include immune system modulators, conjugated antibody therapies as well as other highly specialised drugs.

The drugs may be administered in a variety of ways including intravenously, intramuscularly or they may be able to be taken orally. That is:

  • You might simply swallow a pill. If your Chemotherapy is a pill, just swallow it as your doctor prescribes 

  • Sometimes Chemotherapy is given like a flu shot. The shots may be given in your doctor's office, a hospital, a clinic, or at home

  • Sometimes drugs are given right into your veins through a needle. This is called an IV (intravenous) injection.

You might take these drugs before or after surgery, with radiation (x-ray) treatment or you might take the drugs by themselves.

You and your Doctor will decide on what Chemotherapy is best for your cancer. Together, you will plan a schedule that works for you.

Medical Oncology teams practicing at the Northern Cancer Institute- St Leonards and Frenchs Forest:

Medical Oncology Treatment

If you decide to proceed with your treatment you will need to see the Registered Nurse on duty to make the appointments for your Chemotherapy and to coordinate the supply of medications.

You may take medications once a day, once a week, or even, once a month, depending on the type of cancer you have and the Chemotherapy you are taking. How long you take Chemotherapy also depends on the type of cancer and what length of time research has shown produces the best treatment results.

The number of times you are to receive Chemotherapy varies greatly between patients as does the duration of the treatment itself. Your Oncologist will be able to inform you of these details.

Intravenous (IV) Chemotherapy is considered an inpatient service. Prior to receiving your Chemotherapy treatment you must therefore be admitted into the Northern Cancer Institute by the Registered Nurse on duty and then similarly discharged upon completion of your treatment.

Follow-up Blood Tests

Chemotherapy drugs are designed to kill cancer cells, however some normal cells are also damaged in the process. You will be carefully monitored by regular blood tests during your treatment course. We will provide you with the necessary blood request form to take with you to your local pathology collection centre.

A member of our oncology team will review your blood results. You do not need to contact the NCI for your blood results, unless directed to by a member of our oncology team. We will contact you if there are any problems with your results.

PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU HAVE A BLOOD TEST ONE DAY BEFORE EACH CHEMOTHERAPY TREATMENT, UNLESS OTHERWISE INSTRUCTED.

When you arrive for your Chemotherapy you will need to report to front reception. A Registered Nurse will then admit you to the Centre for your treatment.

The Northern Cancer Institute has been designed to make you feel at ease during your treatment with comfortable recliner chairs and a warm, friendly atmosphere.

If you wish to voice any concerns about your treatment or symptoms, please ask to see your Oncologist or Nurse. An appointment will be arranged as soon as possible.

Radiation Therapy Services

Radiation is energy that is carried by waves or a stream of particles that can alter the genetic code of a cell (a process called ionisation). Radiation Therapy attacks reproducing cancer cells, but it can also affect reproducing cells of normal tissues. The damage to normal cells is what causes side effects.

Each time Radiation Therapy is given it involves a balance between destroying the cancer cells and sparing the normal cells. There is no perfectly safe dose of ionising radiation and all decisions involve a balance between risk and benefit. Radiation is usually more effective on cells that are very active or quickly dividing. It is less effective on cells that are in the resting phase or that are dividing slowly. Radiosensitivity is a term used to describe how vulnerable a cell is to radiation damage.

The goals of Radiation Therapy can differ between patients depending on the nature and extent of their cancer.

Radiotherapy has been shown to assist in:

  1. The treatment of cancer utilising Radiation Therapy alone. The reasons for this include:

    1. Curing the disease;

    2. Living longer; and

    3. Enjoying an improved quality of life.

  2. The treatment of cancer when used adjunct to surgery and/or Chemotherapy. This is to:

    1. Reduce the size of the cancer prior to surgery; and/or

    2. Optimise local control where there is a high likelihood of local relapse after surgery.

  3. The palliation of symptoms in patients with advanced incurable disease.

Radiation Therapy Treatment

If you require Radiation Therapy, your Doctor will arrange an appointment for consultation with a Radiation Oncologist. After this you will be scheduled for a planning session. Taking around an hour, you will meet with your Doctor and a team of Radiation Therapists to outline a treatment schedule. Measurements of the tumour will be made and the best method of delivering the therapy decided upon. This is also an opportunity for you to ask questions.

As the number of days required for treatment varies from patient to patient, the planning session will also help determine the correct number of treatment sessions for you.

Your daily treatment sessions will last approximately 10-15 minutes and the time of these sessions will generally remain constant through the treatment schedule.

You will be reviewed daily by your Radiation Therapists and, quite often, also by the Nurse. Your Doctor will generally review your progress on a weekly basis.

If you have any concerns about your treatment, please notify your Radiation Therapist, who will organise for you to meet with your Doctor or the Nurse as soon as possible.