Doctor Sanchez walks into the examining room, “Hello, I’m Doctor Sanchez.” Doctor Sanchez shakes her patient, Rosa Martinez’s hand. “Hello doctor, I’m Rosa Martinez.” Doctor Sanchez sits down on her chair and begins to explain to Rosa about immunotherapy including the process, the benefits and the risks. “Nice to meet you. I am here to explain the basics of what immunotherapy is. Firstly, I am very sorry to hear that you have melanoma. Luckily immunotherapy is a treatment available for you to receive. So, immunotherapy is a treatment that uses certain parts of your immune system to fight diseases. There are two ways this can be performed. The first way is by stimulating the immune system to work harder to fight off and kill the cancer cells. The second way includes giving your immune system components. The components mainly used are man-made immune system proteins. These can either be given intravenous, oral, topical, intravesical. Intravenous is given to you straight through the vein, oral is a pill or capsule that you take, topical is a cream that you rub on your skin, this is typically used for skin cancer such as the one you have, and intravesical is given to you in the bladder.”  Rosa nods her head understandingly. “Immunotherapy has become an important key to treating different types of cancers. So much so that a few new types of immune treatments are being studied today and they will impact this treatment in the future. Some immunotherapy treatments include interesting ways on how it affects the body. For example, it can help boost the immune system for the patient in great ways and  it could even train the immune system to attack and kill the cancer cells specifically.” Rosa asks, “What cancer can be helped by immunotherapy?” Dr. Sanchez replies saying “Some cancers that can be helped by immunotherapy include melanoma, lung cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and others. For certain types of cancer, immunotherapy is a better treatment than others. For some cancers, it works better than for other cancers.” Rosa asks, “What is the process for immunotherapy and what is the process I will have to take.” Dr. Sanchez replies,  “Good Question, for immunotherapy you might have to come do the treatment multiple times depending on how far along the cancer is, the type of immunotherapy it is, and how your body reacts to the treatment. Depending on these factors, you could have treatment every day, every week or even every month. Some types of immunotherapy are given in cycles, the cycle is a period of treatment and then followed by a cycle of rest. This is important so you can get resting period which gives your body a chance to relax, accept the immunotherapy, and build some new, healthy cells. To tell if the immunotherapy is working is by going to your doctor often to get a physical exam and explain to them how you are feeling. You will be taking a medical test, like a blood test and different types of scans.” Rosa then asks, “What are the side effects of the treatment?” Dr. Sanchez replied with, “Another great question Mrs. Martinez. Now, the side effects of immunotherapy that might occur are flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or fatigue. Because of your medical background and diagnosis are different, the side effects you’ll see might not be seen in other patients with the same treatment. They might have the same symptoms or they might be more severe. There are obviously ways to cope with them. For example, if you are having fatigue, you might not want to take a nap cause that could make you even more tired. Instead, you could try going for short walks or even light exercises to build more energy. Don’t forget to limit naps during the day to less than 1 hour. If you are dealing with a fever with a temperature of 100.5 or higher, you can usually take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, but be sure to check in with me first. Of course, there are also the risks of using immunotherapy, the disadvantages of it are different than the side effects. The disadvantages do include the side effects, but it also has much more complicated risks. Other than the side effects, immunotherapy may cause harm to organs and systems, it is a longer process than other common cancer treatments, it sometimes works on less than half of the people who try it so there is a chance it may not work, and there is a chance that your body gets used to it and is no longer affected by the treatment but it really is good to try.” Rosa replies with “It’s a risk I’m willing to take.” Finally, Rosa asks one last question, “What are the benefits of immunotherapy?” Dr. Sanchez replies “On a more positive note is that there are a lot of benefits. Some benefits of using immunotherapy over others are that it may work when others don’t, it has fewer side effects than other treatments, and your cancer is more likely to not return. Immunotherapy works better than other treatments sometimes, because some cancers, like yours, don’t respond well to other treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. Also, Immunotherapy has fewer side effects than other treatments, because it doesn’t target all of the cells in your body, it mainly targets your immune system. When you use immunotherapy instead of other treatments, your immune system learns what cancerous cells are and attacks them if they were to ever return. Ok now that we have got that out of the way, what and how do you feel about doing this treatment, the process, the risks, and the benefits of it.”. Rosa responds by saying, “Well, although there are some risks, I am willing to do the treatment if it helps me enough.” Dr. Sanchez says, “Great, you can sign some paperwork and we’ll figure out the date to start the treatment.”

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