When you get a cancer diagnosis, your oncologist will give you a list of treatment options. One option with a good success rate is immunotherapy. This therapy isn't the same as chemotherapy, and many people tolerate it better. Your doctor can even do both therapies at the same time. If you want to know more about the pros and cons of immunotherapy, keep reading to learn more about this type of cancer treatment.
What Is Immunotherapy for Cancer?
Immunotherapy is not anything new. It has been a common therapy for allergies for many years. Immunotherapy works by training your immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. Your immune system uses checkpoints to protect healthy cells while it detects and attacks viruses.
Cancers trick your immune system's checkpoints into treating errant growths as normal tissue. Medications have various functions. They may inhibit the immune system checkpoints, attack cancer cell growth, and enhance the immune system's ability to attack cancer cells.
What Are the Benefits of Immunotherapy?
Immunotherapy has many positive benefits for some cancer types. Below are some examples of the pros of this treatment.
- It can help treat more difficult types of cancer
- It works with advanced cancer
- It uses the body's natural immunity
- It has fewer side effects
- It lasts longer and teaches the immune system to recognize future cancer growths
- It works well with other treatments, including traditional chemotherapy
What Are Some Drawbacks of Immunotherapy?
Because immunotherapy medications work to adjust the immune system, you may experience side effects. These side effects vary between people, and you may have more or fewer issues than another person with the same type of cancer. The side effects are usually manageable. Below are some of the downsides of immunotherapy.
- You may experience pain and swelling at the injection sites
- You may have a bad reaction to the medications
- You may feel like you are sick and experience flu-like symptoms
- You may experience physical side effects like weight gain, heart issues, and digestive problems
- You may develop autoimmune issues where your immune system attacks healthy cells in your organs
- You may not respond sufficiently to the treatment and need something different
Like any medical treatment, immunotherapy is not for everyone. Your results may not be the same as other cancer patients. However, for those where immunotherapy is effective, they tend to have positive, long-term outcomes. You may need to have more than one type of treatment for your cancer. If you want to know more about immunotherapy, talk to your oncologist.