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Targeted Therapy for Cancer

Targeted therapy is a special form of cancer treatment that is able to single out cancerous cells and cancerous portions of cells without causing damage to healthy cell material.  This is a very advanced form of cancer treatment, though you should know that targeted therapy is not able to treat every form of cancer and isn’t right for every patient.  Your doctor will tell you about the particular treatments that are available to you and together you can decide what course of action will be best for you. 

Preparation for Targeted Therapy:  The first step of targeted therapy begins with you giving your doctor your consent to receive the treatment you have decided on.  Consent is usually taken in the form of your signature on a medical form.  Before you sign this form, you should talk with your doctor about what you can expect from your treatment.  Make sure you understand how long the course of treatment will last, how the medication should be taken, what follow up is necessary, and what the effects are likely to be.  Your doctor should also tell you about any side effects you may experience as a result of the medication you will take.  Side effects may be mild, moderate, or severe, though you may not experience any as a result of the medications.  Your doctor can tell you with side effects you are most likely to experience and what you should do if you do.   

Procedure:  Because there are many types of targeted therapy available, the exact procedure you will follow once a course of treatment has been decided upon will vary.  Any targeted therapy drug will require a greater or lesser degree of monitoring while you are using it.  You may be given blood tests, x-rays, or other tests to determine how the medication is working and how you are responding to it.  Because some targeted therapy drugs require a high degree of monitoring, your doctor may provide you with specific instructions regarding how you should take the medication that has been prescribed. 

Any medication that you will receive intravenously (through a vein) will be administered by a doctor or nurse at a health care facility.  Other medications, such as tablets or other pills, you may be able to take at home, though you may be required to start taking them while under a doctor’s care before continuing to take them at home.  The course of treatment varies depending on which medication you have been prescribed and which cancer it is being used to treat.  Some medications you will take on an on-going basis, while some may be administered in cycles or for a specific length of time.  Your doctor will tell you how long you should take your medication and what you should do once that stage of treatment is finished.  Depending on your progress, you may receive another round of targeted therapy treatment. 

Types or Techniques Used:  Targeted therapy drugs are available in two primary forms: pill (tablet or capsule) and IV (liquid).  Depending on your course of treatment, you may receive both varieties just one.  You will usually be able to take the pills on your own at home.  If you are receiving IV medication, you will most likely be receiving it at a hospital or clinic.  IV solutions need to be carefully prepared before being administered, so it is essential that only a nurse or doctor provide these doses to you.   

Recovery Time:  You may be able to resume normal activities immediately after receiving each dose of targeted therapy medication, though this is not a guarantee.  Each person responds differently to targeted therapy, so you should discuss your concerns with your doctor.   

Risks and Side Effects of Targeted Therapy:  Any medication you take has certain side effects associated with it.  Not everyone will experience side effects, though you should let your doctor know as soon as possible if you do experience any.