Cancer disease encompasses about 200 different types of the disease which take different types of treatments too. Many of such are curable, others are controllable, and symptoms such as pain can be relieved. The behavior and treatment of cancer depends largely on how early the cancer was detected. All types of cancer cannot be treated using a single reliable treatment procedure but current major methods used by clinicians include: surgery where the cancerous tissue is completely removed, chemotherapy where the cancerous tissues are destroyed or the growth of the cells is inhibited, radiotherapy where the cancerous tissues are destroyed by radiation, and also hormone therapy used to control the cancers which are sensitive to hormones. The above methods can be used solely or combined for effective treatment.
Routine screening examinations are majorly used to screen some cancers. Diagnosis is effective if at the time of presentation the patient had specific symptoms. The first steps to diagnose cancer are a physical exam and medical history. Additional information about the location of the disease can be from complete blood count tests as well as electrolyte levels in the blood. Imaging studies such as ultrasound, MRI scans, X-rays, endoscopy and radionuclide scanning are commonly used to examine the body to detect cancerous tissues and abnormalities in the body. They provide biopsy from the suspected tissue which is then examined by a pathologist. If all cancerous tissues are removed at the time of biopsy, then surgery can be effective to treat the cancer at early stage. The type of cancer can be detected here too.
Cancer staging is the method used by clinicians to estimate the extension of the cancer in the body of the patient. A localized cancer is the one that is detected at an early stage while the one that has spread is termed to be at an advanced stage. Staging is useful in planning the method of treatment as well as in prognosis. Same stage cancer diseases are treated similarly. Staging is done after diagnosis before treatment is administered. The main types of staging include:
Clinical staging – this is used in estimating the extent of the disease based on the results of diagnosis. It is a crucial stage where the results can be used to decide the best treatment to be used. It is a baseline of comparing the responses of the disease to treatment.
Pathologic staging – also known as the surgical stage. It is done to remove the cancer and adjacent lymph nodes. It can sometimes be done to check the extension of the disease or pluck out some samples. Information from this stage is helpful in prognosis.
TNM system is the common staging system for cancer. T-standing for original tumor, N-Node telling whether the disease has spread to nearby lymph nodes and M-metastases to tell whether the disease has spread to distant parts of the body.
The treatment of cancer can impose several complications like pain which is inflicted by the disease or by the chosen method of treatment (Roby, 2015). However, not all cancers are painful. Medications as well as combinations of other approaches can effectively treat pains related to cancer. Cancer and treatment of the same can result to weight loss as the disease deprives the cells of the body of food preventing growth. It is difficult to treat as it does not rely on high intake of calories for compensation. Artificial nutrition has been proposed to prevent extra weight loses through veins and tubes to the stomach but the affection is less felt. Cancer can also lead to chemical changes in the body. Chemicals can imbalance in the body and this might increase the risk of developing serious complications. This can even lead to cancer recurrence. Common symptoms of imbalance in body chemicals are constipation, frequent urination, excessive thirst and confusion. Some cancers have more tendency of recurring than others and the clinician may have to devise a follow-up care plan for the treatment of the patient such as periodic exams.
Treating cancer can also be accompanied by side effects when the healthy organs and tissues are affected. These vary from one individual to another and might depend on type of treatment, its frequency of administration, age of the patient as well as other health conditions associated with the treatment. The common side effects of treating cancer are loss of appetite, anemia, Thrombocytopenia, delirium, constipation, edema, alopecia, neutropenia, fatigue, diarrhea, lymphedema, nausea and vomiting, sexual and fertility problems, pain, skin and nail changes, urinary and bladder complications and others. To improve on the physical and physiological well-being of the patient, he/she is advised to look for a new outlook by focusing on what can be changed, not to generalize about the disease, to reach out to cancer survivors and relatives to share feelings about the disease, to seek professional counselling about the disease therapy, to make healthy lifestyle choices such as exercises, nutrition, rest and to try mind-body techniques such as energy therapies, laughter therapy, relaxation therapies, stress management therapies etc (Roby, 2015).
Cancer can detrimentally affect the physical health of the patient, cause worries to the family and patients of the patient and can also raise practical issues. Effective diagnosis and treatment aids in meeting the social, physical, physiological, spiritual and informational needs that emerge amidst the disease contraction. The patient is recommended to ask about the side effects associated with the treatment of the disease. The patient should be aware of the supportive care that he/he should receive to lessen any associated complications or side effects of treatment. The patient should be open about any complications to the health care team for necessary preventive measures to be taken.
Committee on Psychosocial Services to Cancer Patients/Families in a Community Setting, Board on Health Care Services, Institute of Medicine (2008). Cancer Care for the Whole Patient: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs. Washington: National Academies Press - Medical - 456 pages.
Mark Roby (2015). Lifelines to Cancer Survival: A New Approach to Personalized Care. Integrative Medicine Publishing - Cooking - 226 pages.