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If your symptoms are caused by a tumour, then cancer treatments such as radiotherapy|, chemotherapy|, surgery| or hormonal therapy| may help to relieve them.
Radiotherapy is sometimes used to reduce the size of a tumour and relieve symptoms. The treatment usually takes about 7-10 days to take effect. You may need to take other medicines to control your symptoms during this time.
The dose of radiotherapy used to treat symptoms is generally quite low and the treatment has few side effects other than some tiredness|. However, it can increase symptoms slightly at first, before it starts to reduce them. The effect on your symptoms will depend on which part of the body is treated with radiotherapy. Your doctor can discuss with you the likely side effects and benefits of radiotherapy in your particular situation.
Chemotherapy can also sometimes reduce the size of tumours, which will help control and improve symptoms. It may help some people feel better, although it doesn’t work for everyone and it may cause side effects that are difficult to deal with. Your doctor can discuss with you whether chemotherapy may be helpful. You may want to know how likely it is to work and what the possible side effects may be, so that you can decide whether chemotherapy would be right for you.
Making decisions about treatment| can be difficult. You may need to discuss the benefits and side effects of treatment with your doctor or nurse more than once, before making a decision about whether to have chemotherapy. You can discuss these issues with our cancer support specialists| or another support organisation|.
Surgery can be used to remove part of a tumour in particular areas of the body (such as an airway or the gullet), so that the part of the body can work normally again. Surgery using lasers may sometimes be used to destroy part of a tumour.
Hormonal therapy can be used to reduce symptoms for some types of cancer. It can reduce the size of some tumours by changing the levels of particular hormones in the body, or by preventing the hormones from attaching to the cancer cells. There are many different types of hormonal therapy and the side effects of each vary, but they aren’t usually severe. You can ask your doctor how likely the treatment is to work for you and what the possible side effects are.
Content last reviewed: 1 October 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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