The first objective of treatment is to cure the cancer. This is possible for a number of common cancers, especially if detected early.
Many cancers can be cured by surgery alone if detected early. Sometimes chemotherapy or radiotherapy is administered before or after surgery to increase the chances of cure. When cancer is detected at an advanced stage, with a few notable exceptions, treatment is currently not curative for the majority of people. In the advanced setting, treatment may be used to prolong life and/or to improve quality of life. In some instances, cancer is now becoming a chronic disease, controlled with treatment in the same manner that diabetes may be controlled with insulin.
Patients are encouraged to engage with their oncologist regarding treatment decisions. In many instances different treatment options are available for any specific patient. The most appropriate option for you may be influenced by your preferences and specific circumstances.
Should treatment be indicated, it is important that you understand the objectives of treatment, as well as what can, and cannot be achieved with treatment. Equally important is that your doctor understands what your expectations of treatment are. If, for example, you have an incurable disease, what are your views about prolonging life and quality of life? Do you have a living will? If you are admitted to hospital in a critical condition, what are your views on admission to intensive care? We will always strive to provide what we consider to be the most appropriate care for you, taking your specific medical and social circumstances into consideration. Knowing beforehand what your expectations are is of great value to your oncologist.
Whereas some cancers require treatment as a matter of urgency, some cancers can be safely observed and may never require treatment. It may also be of benefit to observe a cancer for some time before starting treatment in order to decide on the best type of treatment. Your doctor will discuss this with you.