Cancer treatment has changed a lot over the past few decades. These days, more people are being advised to undergo immunotherapy for certain cancers. Immunotherapy is a bit of an umbrella term that refers to several similar treatments that work by stimulating your own immune system to fight off the cancerous cells within your body. Here are some questions you might have if your doctor has recommended you seek immunotherapy.
Will Immunotherapy Cause Serious Side Effects like Chemotherapy?
No, the side effects of immunotherapy tend to be milder than those of chemotherapy, which is one reason why doctors like to recommend immunotherapy when they feel it will be effective. Most people feel mild, flu-like symptoms during immunotherapy. This is a result of your body's immune system's response to the medications, and it should not alarm you. Some patients also experience nausea, body aches, and headaches as they undergo treatment. However, these side effects tend to be mild to moderate, and a good portion of patients don't experience them at all. You won't lose your hair with immunotherapy as you may with chemo, either.
Will Immunotherapy Keep your Cancer from Coming Back?
It may. There are no guarantees. However, immunotherapy does tend to give more long-lasting relief from cancer than other treatments. This is because even after your treatment is over, your body retains the immune cells it develops to fight the cancer. If a few cancer cells ever pop up again, your body will likely be able to fight them off before you develop active cancer again. There are exceptions, of course, but most patients stay in remission for many years, if not their full lifespan, after immunotherapy.
Do You Have to Go to the Hospital for Immunotherapy?
In most cases, you either have to go to a hospital or a dedicated cancer treatment center. A lot of immunotherapy medications are administered via IV infusion. In other words, the medication will be slowly dripped into your veins via an IV needle. Some immunotherapy medications are given via an injection. However, doctors still like to give the injectable medications in a hospital or treatment center so that you can be observed after the drug is administered.
Hopefully this article has answered your biggest, most burning questions about immunotherapy. Make sure yo talk to your doctor before starting any new cancer treatments, and ask questions if there is anything else you would like to know before possibly starting immunotherapy.