Nowadays, cancer is still considered to be one of the most dangerous diseases that involve numerous complications and significantly reduce people’s chances to return to normal life even after the expensive treatment. Despite the fact that medical scientists have made a range of important discoveries that can help patients to recover faster, the situation for those who have cancer is still unpromising as is clear from cancer mortality rates all over the world and in the United States. An effective approach to cancer care should consider both physical and emotional needs that cancer patients have.
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Supportive Care: Managing Complications and Treatment Side Effects
Cancer can be listed among the most common diseases that can have a negative impact on the majority of systems of the human body. In general, cancer includes numerous diseases affecting different organs that have one common feature: they are caused by the abnormal growth of cells that perform their functions improperly and can spread to different organs within a short period of time.
The causes of cancer can be extremely different; in some patients, the disease gradually develops due to the negative impact of external factors such as work-related stress, the lack of sleep, improper diet, bad habits, radiation exposure, and contacts with poisonous substances. Also, it happens that cancer occurs in children or adolescents even though there are no obvious reasons – it this case, patients are likely to have an inherited predisposition to certain types of cancer.
Considering the nature of cancer, the approach to the care of cancer should include two main components. To begin with, it should enable nursing specialists and other health professionals to fulfil the physical needs of cancer patients. The primary attention must be paid to an effective pain management helping cancer patients to devote time to their hobbies and distract from the physical signs of their disease. In addition, healthcare professionals who provide services to cancer patients should utilize a range of ways to manage negative physical symptoms manifested in patients.
As for the latter, they are related to the disease or caused by the treatment and its impact on patients’ health. Importantly, pain management strategy must be based on the current condition of a patient and the stage of cancer. With the lapse of time, pain management strategies can become less effective, and this is why healthcare professionals should design a few strategies.
The most common complications of cancer and its treatment (such as chemotherapy) include breathing problems, difficulty sleeping, weight problems, bleeding, and the lack of appetite. All these complications have a significant impact on the quality of life of patients as they cause both physical and emotional effects such as inanition of the body and the development of depressive disorders. To mitigate these symptoms, it is possible to use the safest sleeping aids, exclude the consumption of coffee, and the use of special diet and antiemetics.
To lessen the psychological effects of complications, it is necessary to use the second component of the approach to care. It involves providing psychological support to patients and their relatives if the latter need help. Considering that cancer is a dangerous disease that often leaves people no chances to survive, individuals who have been diagnosed with this disease (especially those who have advanced cancer) are extremely sensitive. Also, they are more susceptible to depression.
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Understanding that their life will never be the same, many cancer patients start paying focused attention to soul-searching, and it is the task of the members of cancer care teams to support them. Among practices that healthcare professionals can utilize to encourage their patients, there is “a model of patient-centered communication” helping to reduce emotional stress in individuals with cancer (Dean & Street, 2014, p. 143).
The three components of emotional care that can help cancer patients to cope with stress include the readiness to acknowledge patients’ stress, find out about its underlying causes and the primary sources of fear, and provide an empathetic response to make patients understand that their feelings matter. There is no doubt that the relatives of cancer patients also experience a significant stress that can be compared to the mental condition of people who have this disease.
Knowing that, healthcare professionals should be ready to discuss the problem and the most likely outcomes with cancer patients’ relatives. The latter can be an extremely difficult task because many people are not ready to hear the truth. Therefore, the relatives of individuals with cancer may also need to be provided with medical or psychological treatment (Götze, Brähler, Gansera, Polze, & Köhler, 2014).
The model of patient-centered communication that includes three steps can be regarded as an effective approach to the provision of emotional care that can be used to help patients with different stages of cancer. Even though patients have various emotional needs based on the stage of cancer that they have, it does not mean that the amount of psychological care that patients with an early stage of cancer receive has to be smaller than that of individuals with advanced cancer.
When designing a strategy that will help to provide emotional care to cancer patients, the emphasis has to be placed on emotional needs and psychological properties of people who have been diagnosed with cancer. Thus, the combination of two elements of care that are expected to improve cancer patients’ physical and mental condition forms the basis of supportive care in cancer. This approach to cancer care can be seen as effective as it attempts at fulfilling all needs that individuals with cancer have.
The Diagnosis and Staging of Cancer
To define that a patient has cancer, it is necessary to thoroughly analyze abnormal symptoms that a patient complains about and conduct a range of tests helping to exclude other diagnoses that have these symptoms. In practice, it can be rather difficult to make a diagnosis as soon as possible because a lot of cancer patients do not have specific symptoms when the disease just starts to develop.
When making a diagnosis, it is pivotal to analyze the necessity of each test that is planned to be conducted because the use of unnecessary tests may sometimes cause complications and reduce patients’ chances to survive. To diagnose cancer, healthcare professionals are supposed to exclude other possible causes of abnormal symptoms. To do that, it is necessary to consider patients’ family history to find out whether they have a genetic predisposition to this group of diseases. Also, it is extremely important to take into account the information on other diseases that patients have had, their current lifestyle, and possible psychological changes.
In addition, physical examination is an important step as it can help to define unobvious traumas that cause symptoms similar to those of cancer. After that, the decision concerning diagnostic tests to be conducted needs to be made. The list of the most commonly used diagnostic tests helping to confirm the presence of cancer includes a number of laboratory tests that help to analyze various biological fluids such as urine, blood, or saliva. These tests provide the data on the erythrocyte sedimentation rate, neutrophils, urine ketones, and other properties of biological liquids that change due to the presence of cancer (Sabatino, White, Thompson, & Klabunde, 2015).
The use of laboratory tests presents an effective method helping to define the potential causes of symptoms that patients report. Nevertheless, it is almost impossible to use only such tests in order to make a reliable diagnosis. If the results of laboratory tests point at possible cancer, it is important to use medical imaging.
If the diagnosis is confirmed, healthcare professionals are to determine the stage of cancer. There are four approaches to staging that can be used: clinical that is focused on the results of imaging procedures, post-therapy that is applied to patients who did not have surgery, pathologic that is used only after surgical treatment, and restaging that is applied to patients with recurrent cancer (“Staging,” 2015). The particular aspects of patients’ physical condition to be analyzed include the size of tumors, the regions of the body where they are located, and the presence of metastases.
In the end, specialists who take care of patients with different stages of cancer should utilize a supportive approach to care that helps to fulfil both physical and psychological needs of cancer patients. When providing care to individuals with cancer, it is necessary to put emphasis on common complications such as nausea, weight reduction, and sleep problems that often occur due to the treatment of cancer and design a few strategies helping to manage these negative symptoms. In addition, the use of a patient-centered approach to patient communication that involves providing emotional response and supporting cancer patients and their relatives should be used to address the common problems of such patients.
Dean, M., & Street, R. L. (2014). A 3-stage model of patient-centered communication for addressing cancer patients’ emotional distress. Patient Education and Counseling, 94(2), 143-148.
Sabatino, S. A., White, M. C., Thompson, T. D., & Klabunde, C. N. (2015). Cancer screening test use – United States, 2013. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 64(17), 464-468.
Staging. (2015). Web.
Götze, H., Brähler, E., Gansera, L., Polze, N., & Köhler, N. (2014). Psychological distress and quality of life of palliative cancer patients and their caring relatives during home care. Supportive Care in Cancer, 22(10), 2775-2782.
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