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How can your own body help to fight cancer?

Written by: Top Doctors®
Edited by: Emily Lawrenson

There are many different ways to treat cancer these days, but most people still think of radiotherapy or chemotherapy when it comes to treatment. Nowadays there are biological therapies available too, which use substances made from living organisms as a way to fight cancer.

What is immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment which aims to boost the body’s natural defences – the immune system – to fight cancer. Our immune system usually fights off cells that invade it, but can fail when it comes to cancer cells, as they are mutations. Immunotherapy can help to make the immune system function better when destroying cancer cells, slow down or stop the growth of cancerous cells, and stop the spread of cancer to other parts in the body. Immunotherapy doesn’t target the cancer, but the immune system, boosting it in order to help patients long-term.

Can immunotherapy treat all cancers?

In theory, yes, as it fights the immune system, rather than the cancer itself. Research and development are constantly showing that immunotherapy can be another option to consider for patients with cancer showing resistance to traditional methods.

Does immunotherapy have side effects?

Most cancer treatments have some kinds of side effects, but immunotherapy has different ones in comparison to radiotherapy or chemotherapy. There is no hair loss, and blood cells are not affected. Side effects are related to the immune system as a direct relation of its stimulation, and can include:

  • Fever
  • Itching and rashes
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Certain autoimmune disorders

Many of these side effects will disappear when treatment ends, but some can persist. These can be managed with the help of your specialist, or care team.

Is immunotherapy right for me?

As with all cancer treatments, your specialist will discuss your options with you and can advise the best course of care when it comes to fighting cancer. There are different types of immunotherapy, so it is important to know what is suitable. Immunotherapy is not usually indefinite – studies have shown that the results of treatment last even after it is completed.

If you wish to discuss the possibility of immunotherapy treatment, the best thing to do is to contact a specialist who can help and advise. 


By Topdoctors
Medical oncology

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