Cancer care is a complex process that requires extensive understanding of the various dynamics of cancer diagnosis, staging, treatment, prevention, and management (Coleman, 2006). Cancer diagnosis is important because it determines the most effective treatment method to be used. On the other hand, cancer staging helps physicians determine the extent of cancer spread in the body (Tobias & Hochhauser, 2009).
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Proper cancer care also involves full understanding of the side effects of treatment as well as the various methods that can be used to lessen the physical and psychological effects experienced. Cancer care should be individualized based on the type of cancer that a patient has, stage of development in the body, and susceptibility to treatment side effects. Early detection of cancer is the most effective strategy that can be used to ensure effective treatment. It is advisable for people to undergo frequent cancer screening in order to ensure early detect of cancer invasion.
Cancer diagnosis is conducted through extensive evaluation of family medical history, physical examination, laboratory tests, imaging tests, and biopsy (Coleman, 2006). One of the most effective methods of cancer diagnosis is medical imaging. Physicians conduct physical examination by feeling certain areas in a patient’s body for the presence of lumps and other abnormalities related with different forms of cancer.
Examples of such abnormalities include changes in skin color and swelling of organs (Jones, 2003). The presence of lumps is an indication of tumors that are the major characteristic of cancer invasion. Doctors also perform urine and blood tests in order to identify any abnormalities. For example, certain cancers manifest by altering the number of certain cells in blood. In people with leukemia, the number of abnormal leukocytes is very high (Tobias & Hochhauser, 2009).
Biopsy tests involve the removal of tissue pieces from the body for laboratory analysis and are highly effective in differentiating between cancerous and noncancerous cells (Jones, 2003). The various types of biopsy procedures used in cancer diagnosis include bone marrow biopsy, endoscopic biopsy, and needle biopsy (fine-needle aspiration, image-guided biopsy, vacuum-assisted biopsy, and core needle biopsy) (Coleman, 2006).
Imaging tests are conducted to determine whether the cancer has spread to various body organs and tissues. Medical imaging refers to the process of taking pictures of internal body organs to diagnose cancer by determining whether tumors are present. The most common imaging techniques include computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound, nuclear scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), x-rays, and PET scan (Tobias & Hochhauser, 2009). CT scans are used in cancer diagnosis to detect abnormal growths, identify tumors, determine the stage of cancer, identify regions for biopsy procedures, and aid in planning and administering radiation therapy (Jones, 2003).
Cancer staging refers to the process of determine the stage of cancer development and its locations in the body (Coleman, 2006). Staging is done after diagnosis is completed and it is useful in determine the best treatment to use and the probability of eradicating the cancer. Medical imaging is one of the most effective methods used in cancer staging. The four main types of cancer staging include clinical staging, pathologic staging, post-therapy staging, and restaging (Jones, 2003).
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Cancer stage is based on factors that include location in the body, size and extent of tumors, presence of metastases, and involvement of lymph nodes. In many cases, cancer staging is conducted using physical examinations, imaging tests laboratory tests, pathology reports, and surgical reports. The TNM system is the most widely system for cancer staging. T represents the size and extent of tumor, N represents the number of cancerous lymph nodes, and M represents the presence of metastases (Coleman, 2006).
Another way of staging is to represent different cancer stages with roman numerals (I-IV) (Coleman, 2006). Another cancer staging system groups the stage of development into five main groups designated as in situ, localized, regional, distant, and unknown (Coleman, 2006).
Three major cancer complications include anemia, lymphedema, and infections. Anemia occurs in people with cancer due to several causes that include low levels of iron in the blood, destruction of red blood cells, blood loss, cancer treatment, lack of certain dietary vitamins and minerals, and spread of cancer to body organ s that include kidney, liver, and heart (Jones, 2003). People with cancer are predisposed to anemia because certain risk factors that include low hemoglobin levels, certain types of tumors, and platinum-based chemotherapy. Lymphedema refers to the build-up of lymph fluid in certain body tissues that causes swelling especially in arms and legs (Lasley, 2011).
In people with cancer, it can be caused by surgery or radiation therapy. Signs of lymphedema include swelling, reduced movement or flexibility in certain body joints, changes in skin color and texture, and discomfort in certain areas (Tobias & Hochhauser, 2009). Infections in people with cancer are very serious because they are hard to treat. Type of cancer and the type of treatment increase the risk of contracting infections. Certain forms of cancer damage the immune system and interfere with its proper functioning (Lasley, 2011).
Treatment side effects
Cancer treatment has several side effects that include pain, fatigue, nausea, anemia, vomiting, infections, pain, anxiety, depression, and constipation (Jones, 2003). Other side effects include weight loss, nervous system problems, and fear (Lasley, 2011).
Methods to lessen physical and psychological effects
There are several methods to lessen physical and psychological effects of cancer treatment. Methods to lesson psychological effects include talking to a therapist or doctor, taking part in physical activity, receiving mental health treatment, and engaging in fun activities (Lasley, 2011). These methods are aimed at eradicating the effects of feelings and emotions such as depression, anxiety, anger, denial, isolation, shock, helplessness, sadness, and loss of interest (Jones, 2003).
On the other hand, methods to lessen physical effects of cancer treatment include body relaxation techniques, lifestyle changes, good nutrition, laughter therapy, mental imagery and visualization, and meditation (Tobias & Hochhauser, 2009). In many cases, addressing psychological effects helps to address physical effects because the mind plays a key role in affecting the body. Therefore, embracing lifestyles that enhance mind-body balance can be very useful.
Cancer is one of the most common causes of deaths in the world. There are many forms of cancer that invade different body parts such as throat, lung, stomach, cervix, and breast. Approach to care of cancer involves the proper understanding of diagnosis, staging, treatment, and management of cancer. Cancer diagnosis is a complex process that includes physical examination, laboratory tests, medical imaging, and biopsy tests.
In many cases, the use of the aforementioned methods in diagnosis also aids in cancer staging. Treatment methods vary depending on cancer stage. Treatment has numerous side effects that can be managed through professional therapy and frequent practice of techniques that enhance mind-body balance.
Coleman, C. N. (2006). Understanding Cancer: A Patient’s Guide to Diagnosis, Prognosis and Treatment. New York, NY: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Jones, E. G. (2003). Cancer: Its Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment. New York, NY: B. Jain Publishers.
Lasley, I. (2011). 21st Century Cancer Treatment. New York, NY: Isaac Lasley.
Tobias, J, S., & Hochhauser, D. (2009). Cancer and its management. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.