The goal of cancer treatment is to achieve a cure for your cancer, allowing you to live a normal life span. This may or may not be possible, depending on your specific situation. If a cure isn't possible, your treatments may be used to shrink your cancer or slow the growth of your cancer to allow you to live symptom free for as long as possible.
Cancer treatments may be used as:
Primary treatment. The goal of a primary treatment is to completely remove the cancer from your body or kill all the cancer cells.
Any cancer treatment can be used as a primary treatment, but the most common primary cancer treatment for the most common types of cancer is surgery. If your cancer is particularly sensitive to radiation therapy or chemotherapy, you may receive one of those therapies as your primary treatment.
Adjuvant treatment. The goal of adjuvant therapy is to kill any cancer cells that may remain after primary treatment in order to reduce the chance that the cancer will recur.
Any cancer treatment can be used as an adjuvant therapy. Common adjuvant therapies include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy.
Neoadjuvant therapy is similar, but treatments are used before the primary treatment in order to make the primary treatment easier or more effective.
Palliative treatment. Palliative treatments may help relieve side effects of treatment or signs and symptoms caused by cancer itself. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy can all be used to relieve symptoms. Other medications may relieve symptoms such as pain and shortness of breath.
Palliative treatment can be used at the same time as other treatments intended to cure your cancer.