Some people tend to confuse treatment with cure. Treatment refers to a set of measures applied to a person suffering from a disease in order to reduce or relieve symptoms, prevent complications, or to restore to health (healing). That is, although it may lead to cure, treatment is not necessarily a cure, which reverses the illnesses completely and permanently.
Most of the time, treatment is done to improve the patient’s life and prevent complications of the disease. In case of AIDS for example, treatments slow the damage caused by the HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) and helps the patient live longer. In other medical conditions such as asthma, appropriate treatment can help the patient to live a lifetime with the disease. Some treatments, in the other hands, if followed as prescribed, can lead to complete healing; chemotherapy in the treatment of breast cancer in situ for instance.
Today, various forms of treatment are available. As medical science progresses, new forms of treatment emerge every day. However, depending on their objective, all these treatments are grouped into the following categories:
Active treatments – also called curative treatments, is the use of therapeutic principles to eradicate the illness completely. They may include medical treatment, involve taking of drugs; surgical treatment consisting of physical intervention on tissues by incision and suture; and technique treatment, methods of treatment using radiotherapy or interventional radiology to treat patient.
Palliative treatment – this is a form of treatment consist of all steps taken to prevent or relieve pain of a serious illness. It is mostly used in patients approaching death to allow them to live the rest of their life in less pain possible. That is, the purpose of palliative treatment is to prolong the patient’s life without compromising the quality of his life. In the US, palliative treatment is used in painful conditions when there is no hope of recovery, such as terminal cancer. Intraspinal morphine, helping to overcome severe pain, is a form of palliative treatment.
Preventive treatment – preventive treatment aims at preventing disease outbreak. They consist of all measures taken to prevent infection or development of disease. This can be done by vaccination, eliminating a risk factor (quit smoking to lower lung cancer risk, lower high cholesterol to decrease heart attack risk). Although very important, preventive treatment is the most neglected therapy in the world. Most people are interested in their health when it is impaired or too deteriorated to regain it. Using condoms during sexual intercourse to prevent AIDS, smoking cessation to reduce risks of lung cancer are two forms of preventive treatments.
Symptomatic treatment – Symptomatic treatment aimed at relieving symptoms of a disease without attacking the causes or the nature of the disease. It is often used in viral diseases such as flu (influenza). Some forms of asymptomatic treatment include analgesics for pain relief; anti-depressants and anxiolytics, to treat symptoms of depression; antiasthenics to fight against fatigue, which could be caused by another medical condition. However, there are diseases which, although curable, are accompanied by severe pain. In such circumstances, some doctors may decide to use both curative and symptomatic treatment.