The medical name for cancer is malignant neoplasm. There are approximately forty different types of cancers, including a few varieties of leukemia and lymphoma. Cancer is a disease that has increased in frequencies in countries such as the United States of America during the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st. In fact, according to statistics gathered by leading clinics in the U.S.A., cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S.A. This paper will describe some approaches to cancer treatment. Cancer treatment certainly includes treatments to fight the disease, but there are also treatments that support the person carrying the disease, as well as anyone who is close to the cancer patients and functions as part of the patient’s support system in some way. The paper will offer some tips toward prevention of cancer, diagnosis of cancer, and describe the different stages of cancer. Cancer treatment is not a straight forward process and there are risks as well as complications. As with any disease and treatment, there are side effects, which are another aspect of the disease that should be treated and supported. Therefore, the paper will attempt to describe both the physical and psychological effects of cancer on a person. Cancer is not an immediate death sentence for a person; changes in perspective, health habits, and a strong relationship with one’s oncologist combine for a more effective treatment of cancer with an increased likelihood for remission.
Cancer is a term that refers to any one of a set of diseases. These diseases are primarily characterized by the development of abnormal cells, which divide uncontrollably. Cancer cells can take over existing healthy cells and replace tissue. Cancerous diseases have the power and potential to replicate uncontrollably to the point where the cells penetrate and obliterate normal body tissue such as organs. Sometimes cancer appears in one part or system of the body and remains within that general region. There are also numerous cases of cancer where the cancer spreads throughout the person’s body. Readers can then understand the magnitude and gravity with which the news of having cancer inside one’s body can impact one’s life.
When more people have a greater general knowledge about cancer, they can help curb habits that bring on cancer, or at least have a greater awareness or sensitivity for people with cancer. Though the instances of cancer in places like the U.S.A. are increasing, cancer survival rates are also on the rise. Because there have been so many instances of cancer and so many different types of cancer that exist, there are many people with interest and resources to understand and cure cancer. Cancer research is a field within the medical and health care industries that has seen rejuvenation also. It is unfortunate that there are so many instances of cancer, but at least the prevalence of the disease or set of diseases, inspired the interest and attention of many people who work collaboratively to cure all forms of cancer.
Another consequence of the prevalence of cancer is increased cancer awareness. There are many large scale forms of charity for various kinds of cancer that promote themselves by various means. The forms of charity or fundraising, such as the Breast Cancer Awareness Walks & Runs, for which the pink ribbon is the symbol, are positive consequences of the prevalence of cancer. Many women and men participate in the walks; women with cancer and without cancer participate, too. These walks occur across the country. The walks involve lots of different members of the local and national community. The walks support people with cancer with the fundraising, but also by engaging in a physical activity that celebrates and builds help. The walks also support family and friends of people with breast cancer; it may help them feel like they can do something to help in times when cancer makes people feel helpless. This is just one of many examples of cancer-related activities that promote health, research, and community. As it is the second leading cause of death in the United States, it is very likely that most Americans either have or know someone personally who has or had cancer.
Cancer is a disease that reflects problems on a cellular level. Cancer happens when cells multiply and divide too fast for the body to handle or too quickly for what is necessary for the body to work normally. Cancer happens when cells forget how to die. (Dugdale, Zieve, 2010) The diversity in the types of cancer that exist show that cancer is capable of developing in practically any organ or tissue, including bones, the brain, and systems like the nervous or the lymphatic. There is even such a variety as blood cancer. Actions that people can take to lower their chances of developing cancer are: tobacco cessation, monitoring exposure to sunlight, moderate consumption of alcohol, and avoiding obesity. (Dugdale, Zieve, 2010) These are some actions people can take to be proactive against cancer. As with many medical conditions, there are those with genetic dispositions, but we cannot prevent our genes. We can prevent obesity. We can drink alcohol with moderation. We can stop smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco. We can wear sunblock and wear linen clothing during long bouts in the sun.
Most cancers are formally diagnosed after a biopsy has been performed on the tissue or organ in question. Oncologists, doctors who specialize in the treatments of cancers, use diagnostic tools such as biopsies, blood tests, x-rays, and scans like Computed Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). (ACS, 2012) A very important though imaginably difficult aspect to the diagnosis, is the in-depth discussion of the cancerous tumor within the body. In order to be best prepared for treatment choices and consequences, patients should have a very clear and detailed idea of the nature of their cancer. (ACS, 2012) Understanding the nature of the disease helps the reality of the situation sink in to the person in a hard and also in a good way. Yes, cancer is arduous to live with, but knowing about one’s cancer puts one in more control over one’s life, one’s treatment, and one’s recovery. The cancer cells may be out of control, but the cancer patient can have control over his/her life (as much as possible) with that knowledge.
Cancer is a disease that develops in very distinct stages. There are four stages in the development and worsening of cancer. Stage 0 cancer means the cancer has been located very earlier on in its development and is most treatable. As the cancer moves through Stage I — Stage III, the cancer cells continue to multiply and the damage done to the body becomes more intensive. As the stage numbers increase, this translates within the body as the cancer cells spreading and the tumor getting larger. The cancer may have moved beyond the first area in which it materialized, and begun developing in a nearby tissue or organ, etc. By Stage IV, the cancer has definitively spread throughout the body and the number of healthy cells, tissues, and organs is dangerous insubstantial. There are further ways to more specifically categorize cancers as the National Cancer Institute explains:
Many cancer registries, such as NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER), use summary staging. This system is used for all types of cancer. It groups cancer cases into five main categories: In situ: Abnormal cells are present only in the layer of cells in which they developed; Localized: Cancer is limited to the organ in which it began, without evidence of spread; Regional: Cancer has spread beyond the primary site to nearby lymph nodes or organs and tissues; Distant: Cancer has spread from the primary site to distant organs or distant lymph nodes; Unknown: There is not enough information to determine the stage. (2012)
Of the many complications in living with cancer, a more common side effect of cancer is a person’s reaction to their individualized cancer treatment. The cancer treatment can be as rough upon the body as the disease itself in some cases. Another complication is that the cancer could spread and move into the latter stages of cancer development. A complication could also be of a personal nature if the cancer patient gives up on his/her life, takes drastic action, or are without an adequate support system and cannot bear the strain of the situation. Some of the more common side effects of treatments including medications and chemotherapy are nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, internal bleeding or organ failure because of surgery, anemia, secondary cancer existence, sexual side effects, and serious body aches or pains. (ACS, 2012) Some people lose their health and their skin turns a different shade because of treatments.
The emotional side effects of cancer are diverse and intense. Some common emotions with in living with cancer are fear, depression, and anxiety. Some people have a more positive and determined outlook. Some things that are important for people with cancer and people close to those with cancer are strong relationships with their health care team. There should be a lot of discussion of options and clear communication in general. There needs to be a lot of love and listening. Everyone should stay active because activity gives energy and vitality. As with any challenging life situation, hard work toward a realistic, healthy goal and some hope could not hurt.
American Cancer Society. (2012) Cancer Basics. Available from: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerBasics/index. 2012 July 13.
Dugdale, III, MD, D.C, & Zieve, MD, D. (2010) Cancer. U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002267/. 2012 July 10.
National Cancer Institute. (2012) Cancer Topics. Available from: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics. 2012 July 12.
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