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Understanding the Efficacy of Adjuvant Therapy

Adjuvant therapy is treatment that helps to keep cancer from recurring. It is often given to patients who have already had other primary treatments like surgery. Although surgery may be successful in removing tumors, microscopic bits of the disease can remain undetectable in the body.

Before going ahead with adjuvant therapy, you should first understand your options. Weigh your benefits with the risks, especially from the side effects of treatment as you decide.

Adjuvant therapy can be given before the primary treatment (neoadjuvant therapy) to help enhance its effectiveness. However, adjuvant or neoadjuvant therapy may not benefit everyone and can cause adverse side effects.

The types of treatment used as adjuvant therapy are chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells, while hormone therapy helps to stop hormone production for cancers that are sensitive to hormones. Radiation can be administered internally or externally. As for immunotherapy, drugs are given to patients to help stimulate their body’s immune system to fight residual cancer cells. Targeted therapies are meant to alter certain abnormalities within cancer cells. For example, they can block the action of HER2 in patients with breast cancer.

To help you determine the effectiveness of adjuvant therapy, the following factors should be put into consideration.

  • Your type of cancer – Adjuvant therapy can be beneficial in treating diseases such as colon and breast cancer but not so in other types.
  • The cancer stage – For early-stage cancer, which has not spread and has no chance of recurring, adjuvant therapy may not benefit the patient much. Surgery is enough to rid the body of the disease. However, if cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, adjuvant therapy can help.
  • The number of lymph nodes the disease has spread to – If cancer has spread to more lymph nodes, there’s the chance that cancer cells will be left behind after surgery. In this case, adjuvant therapy will help the patient.
  • The hormone receptivity – Hormone therapy will work effectively when the tumor is hormonally sensitive.

Other cancer-specific changes can indicate cancer recurrence, making adjuvant therapy beneficial to the patient. If the tests show no signs of recurrence, then adjuvant therapy will be of little or no benefit.

Undergoing adjuvant therapy is not a guarantee that cancer will not recur. But the treatment can lower the risk of recurrence.

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