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How Long Does it Take for Immunotherapy to Work?

When many people hear a cancer diagnosis, they think of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Immunotherapy, the most innovative field of cancer research, lacks the toxic side effects of other treatments. For many cancers, immunotherapy has become a valuable tool that trains the body to fight cancer cells. 

What is Immunotherapy?

Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that harnesses your immune system to target cancer cells. Your immune system normally finds and destroys cells that behave abnormally, but cancer can rapidly grow and change. Immunotherapy helps your immune system become more effective at targeting these cancer cells.

Immunotherapy Tucson

How Does Immunotherapy Work?

Many immunotherapy treatments take advantage of antibodies. B cells produce antibodies to target bacteria, viruses, and other invaders, but they can be triggered to start targeting cancer cells. Immunotherapy also uses other components of the immune system. These include killer T cells and macrophages to destroy cancer cells or helper T cells and cytokines to coordinate a more effective immune response. 

How Long Does it Take for Immunotherapy to Work?

A typical cycle of immunotherapy lasts two to three weeks, with most people undergoing several cycles. After your immunotherapy treatment, your body needs time to respond and develop a new fleet of cancer-fighting immune system cells. As a result, it often takes two months or more before you start to see results. Your immune system will respond more actively after each treatment cycle. 

How Well Does Immunotherapy Work?

Immunotherapy research progresses every day, and treatments become more effective. Cancer researchers see immunotherapy as a field that will continue to develop and become more critical in the fight against cancer. People who have a type of cancer responsive to immunotherapy have a 20% to 50% response rate. Researchers expect that this will continue to improve as research advances rapidly. 

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Simply fill out the form on this page to request an appointment and one of our knowledgable team members will reach out to you. Or call our Sierra Vista oncology center to schedule directly at (520) 803-6644.

What are the Side Effects of Immunotherapy?

Many people associate the idea of cancer treatment with the often unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy. Immunotherapy side effects are much less severe. They include signs that the immune system has detected and is preparing to fight an invader, including:

  • Fatigue or general weakness
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle spasms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rashes
  • Loss of appetite

These are usually mild and go away without treatment. Your body will have time to rest between treatment cycles, so any side effects have time to subside. 

Am I a Good Candidate for Immunotherapy?

If you have certain types of cancer that respond to immunotherapy, you may be a good candidate. You may not make a good candidate if you have an immune system condition that keeps it from reacting normally. Good candidates understand the benefits and risks of this treatment and feel prepared to accept them. 

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Take the Next Step

Do you have questions about immunotherapy? Reach out to Cochise Oncology at (520) 335-9460 or fill out the consultation form on this page.

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