Medical Oncology is the cancer specialty that builds on internal medicine expertise to provide additional experience in treating people with cancer. New Milford Hospital's medical oncologists specialize in diagnosing and treating cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy, and targeted therapies such as anti-angiogenic drugs and monoclonal antibodies. Since some patients receive a combination of these treatment options, our medical oncologists direct care for patients cancer, providing supportive care and coordinating treatment given by other specialists. The medical oncologist can also support patients and families who may want to undergo genetic testing and counseling to assess and understand risk, and to make more informed choices about future health care.
Chemotherapy is any treatment involving the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Cancer chemotherapy may consist of single drugs or combinations of drugs, and can be administered through a vein, injected into a body cavity, or delivered orally in the form of a pill. Chemotherapy is different from surgery or radiation therapy in that the cancer-fighting drugs circulate in the blood to parts of the body where the cancer may have spread and can kill or eliminate cancers cells at sites that are a great distances from the original cancer. As a result, chemotherapy is considered a systemic treatment.
More than half of all people diagnosed with cancer receive chemotherapy. For millions of people who have cancers that respond well to chemotherapy, this approach helps treat their cancer effectively, enabling them to enjoy full, productive lives. Furthermore, many side effects once associated with chemotherapy are now easily prevented or controlled, allowing many people to work, travel, and participate in many of their usual activities while receiving chemotherapy.
A targeted therapy is one that is designed to treat only the cancer cells and minimize damage to normal, healthy cells. Cancer treatments that "target" cancer cells may offer the advantage of reduced treatment-related side effects and improved outcomes. Advances in science and technology have led to the development of several different types of targeted therapies. Each of these new treatments targets cancer through different mechanisms to limit or stop progression of the disease. Your medical oncologist can discuss some examples of targeted therapies that may apply to your treatment.
Biological therapy is referred to by many terms, including immunologic therapy, immunotherapy, or biotherapy. Biological therapy is a type of treatment that uses the body's immune system to facilitate the killing of cancer cells. Types of biological therapy include interferon, interleukin, monoclonal antibodies, colony stimulating factors (cytokines), and vaccines.
Hormones are naturally occurring substances in the body that stimulate the growth of hormone sensitive tissues, such as the breast or prostate gland. When cancer arises in breast or prostate tissue, its growth and spread may be caused by the body's own hormones. Therefore, drugs that block hormone production or change the way hormones work, and/or removal of organs that secrete hormones, such as the ovaries or testicles, are ways of fighting cancer. Hormone therapy, similar to chemotherapy, is a systemic treatment in that it may affect cancer cells throughout the body.