Hearing a cancer diagnosis is difficult for patients and their families. Important decisions have to be made about cancer treatment in a short space of time. At Sweden Ghana Medical Centre, we know that patients and their sponsors will be uncertain and anxious. They will be hearing unfamiliar words and medical statistics that can be confusing.
Deciding on treatment
There are different ways that cancer can be treated. The kinds of treatment that a patient can have will depend on the type of cancer and how advanced it is. To help make the decision about treatment, our Oncology team will find out the following information:
- where the cancer started in the body
- the type and size of the cancer
- whether the cancer has started to spread to other parts of the body – this is its stage
- how fast-growing the cancer may be – this is its grade
Types of treatment
Most people who are diagnosed with cancer in West Africa need a combination of cancer treatments, such as surgery with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Other treatments include brachytherapy, immunotherapy and hormone therapy. The main types of cancer treatment include:
- Surgery – Many cancer patients first have surgery to remove all or part of their tumors. Surgery works well for solid tumors contained in one part of the body. Surgically removing or reducing tumors can help other treatments work better. Sweden Ghana Medical Centre has a network of specialized surgeons who treat our patients when surgery is required.
- Radiotherapy – Radiation can slow the growth of cancer cells; it can destroy cancer cells and it can also prevent cancer from coming back. This cancer treatment uses high doses of radiation therapy to shrink cancer tumors or to kill cancer cells. Doses of radiation are called fractions. The machines used for radiotherapy are highly complex, and you will need a special treatment team that includes an oncologist, medical physicist, dosimetrist and radiotherapist.
- Radiation can be done before or after surgery, and together with chemotherapy treatment. There are two types of radiation therapy:
- External beam radiation is where a machine moves around you and aims radiation beams at your cancer cells. It is used to treat many different types of cancer.
- Internal radiation therapy is where radiotherapy seeds or markers are planted within your body at the site of your cancer. This type of radiation is called brachytherapy.
- Chemotherapy, which is also called chemo treatment, is a type of cancer treatment that includes a medication or combination of medications to treat cancer. Cancer cells tend to multiply quickly, and so the goal of chemotherapy is to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. But chemotherapy can also harm healthy cells that divide quickly, such as those that line your mouth and intestines or cause your hair to grow. We call this the side-effects of chemo treatment. It’s important to know that many of the side effects get better or go away after chemotherapy is over.
- Depending on your type of cancer and how advanced it is, chemotherapy can cure or help control your cancer. Doctors will prescribe chemotherapy on its own or as part of a treatment that includes surgery or radiation therapy. They will also decide which chemotherapy drugs to use depending on the type of cancer you have. Some types of chemotherapy drugs are used for many types of cancer. Other drugs are used for just one or two types of cancer. Doctors also consider whether you have had chemotherapy before, or whether you have other health problems, such as diabetes or heart disease, before they make their drug choices.
A course of chemotherapy or radiation therapy can take several days or even weeks – and cancer cells will continue to die even after the cancer treatment is completed.
Understanding treatment options
Our most important role at Sweden Ghana Medical Centre is to help people understand their cancer treatment options. So first, we listen to each patient. We gather all the medical information we need to review each person’s case individually. Our experienced Oncologists will always tell patients the truth about their cancer diagnosis, even though it may be hard to hear. They will discuss the risks and benefits associated with types of cancer treatment options. The clinical team will also explain how each treatment option may impact the patient’s quality of life.
Knowing treatment impact
After initial consultations, our expert Oncologists will consult with the patient’s medical care providers to discuss recommended treatments. We tell each patient about how treatment will be given, the possible side-effects and how this may affect day-to-day living – including nutrition needs. We will also explain what will happen if the patient doesn’t have treatment or if treatment is delayed.
Our case management team will work with each patient to see that they know what different cancer treatment options are available. The case manager will offer the range of cancer treatment choices that are available based on the Oncologist’s advice. They will explain how much each option will cost to the patient, and help discuss all financial considerations. Together we help patients and sponsors decide their goals when choosing the option that they feel is best for them.