What are adjuvant therapies?
Your doctor may recommend adjuvant therapy after the initial surgery to decrease the risk of cancer recurrence by killing microscopic cancer bits that remain undetectable on scans or blood tests.
Adjuvant therapy can refer to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and immunotherapy. Adjuvant therapies are used for multiple cancers including breast cancer, colon cancer, and lung cancer.
Which treatments are adjuvant therapies?
Types of cancer treatment that are beneficial as adjuvant therapy include:
- Chemotherapy: It uses drugs that go throughout the body through IV infusion to search tumor cells. Chemotherapy interfers with the ability of cancer cell to grow or reproduce. It may be given before/ after in combination with other treatments or alone for lung cancer.
- Radiation therapy: It uses high-powered energy beams (X-rays or protons) to destroy cancer cells and shrink the tumors. It is given internally or externally. Radiation with chemotherapy helps to treat lung cancer.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy drugs boost the body’s immune system to fight off any remaining cancer cells. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three immunotherapy drugs (pembrolizumab, atezolizumab and nivolumab) to treat certain non-small cell lung cancers.
- Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy alters specific abnormalities of cancer cells. The medicines circulate throughout the body in search of tumor cells. These drugs target specific parts of cancer cells. These drugs are helpful for non-small cell lung cancers with the standard chemotherapy regimen. Medications with other specific targets, such as crizotinib, erlotinib and cetuximab, may also be beneficial.
How effective are adjuvant therapies?
Any treatment that can decrease chances of cancer recurrence has side effects. It’s important for you to talk with your Doctor about your individual risks and benefits. Here are the usual factors that help make this decision:
- Type of cancer
- Stage of cancer
- Number of lymph nodes involved
- Other cancer-specific changes that indicate the likelihood that cancer will return make adjuvant therapy more likely to be beneficial
- Your overall fitness (and any medical issues) that affect the ability to take the treatment
Adjuvant therapy doesn’t guarantee a cancer cure.
Side effects of adjuvant therapies
The side effects of adjuvant therapy will vary based on the types of treatment and the doses being used (see examples below). Ankr has a large and growing library of cancer treatments, so make sure to read about side effects of any treatment you choose.
- Mouth sores
- Digestive disorders (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation)
- Skin change
- Liver disorders
- Bone loss
Questions to ask before adjuvant therapies
- What are the side effects?
- What are the procedures?
- How long will be the duration of this therapy?
- What are the chances of staying cancer-free?
- What is the cost of the therapy?
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