Oncology is the medical study and treatment of cancer. A physician who practices oncology is an oncologist. The term is from the Greek onkos, meaning bulk or mass, and the suffix -ology, meaning study of.
The traditional methods of oncology, or means of treating cancer, are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Surgery involves cutting out malignant tumors. Chemotherapy involves administering chemicals to the patient to affect the cancer. Radiation therapy involves direction of radiation to concentrate on the cancerous tissue to kill it.
A significant problem with treatment methods such as surgery and directed radiation is that destruction of the primary tumor often results in other dormant micrometastases becoming active. In other words, once the main cancer is removed, other cancer sites often pop up throughout the body.
Many other types of therapy have been tried with cancer patients. Some of these have been discredited by the medical community, such as amygdalin, also known as laetrile, an extract of apricot pits. Other herbal preparations are being tried by various practitioners. Some physicians have claimed significant success with a modified means of delivering chemotherapy, termed IPT or insulin potentiation therapy.
Other efforts have centered on trying to bolster the body's immune system's ability to deal with the cancer. Unfortunately, many cancers present surface configurations that exactly mimic their original healthy parent cells, so that most immunotherapies are useless against them.
Some patients also use what are known as "adjunctive therapies", including such practices as visualization. While these are largely not proven to be effective, they are mostly at least harmless and often supportive of the patient's state of mind while they are undergoing medical therapies.
Also see experimental cancer treatments.
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