“Cancer” is a term used to classify and describe malignant tumors characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells. The rapid and abnormal growth of cells can be provoked by a range of factors of the internal and external nature, including both the inheritance factor and unhealthy lifestyles and practices. When cancer cells invade different organs because of the replication and spread of atypical cells, it is possible to speak about such a process as metastasis (Nagpal, Singh, Singh, Chauhan, & Zaidi, 2016).
The aim of this paper is to discuss the approach to treating different types of cancer in general, describe the process of providing a diagnosis, and analyze the staging of cancer. The purpose is also to identify its complications, mention the side effects of treatment, and discuss the approaches to lessening physical and psychological effects.
Description of the Diagnosis and Staging of Cancer
Diagnosing cancer at the early stage of this disease is a challenging task because, in many cases, cancer progresses without symptoms and signs. It is possible to speak about diagnosing cancer when patients experience the loss of normal functioning in organs, notice tumors as a result of the physical examination, and experience pain because neoplasms press on nerves. The problem is that these symptoms are observed when tumors are too large to be easily treated.
When cancer is suspected, healthcare providers use neoplasm tissues to examine cells and identify the type of cancer during a biopsy. Other testing and diagnosing procedures include blood and chromosome tests to examine cancer markers. These markers are BRCA1, 2, CA-125, Beta-2-microglobulin, and BCR-ABL, among others that indicate the predisposition to different types of cancer (Nagpal et al., 2016). Additional methods for diagnosing cancer include flow cytometry, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, tomography, X-rays, and screening that are helpful for identifying tumors and metastases in organs.
The process of diagnosing cancer also involves such a step as the identification of a specific stage of this disease. Four stages are referred to when diagnosing cancer, and Stage 1 indicates the initial phase of growing cancer cells that form small tumors, which can be observed mainly with the help of screening and tomography. At this stage, tumors are removed with the help of a surgical procedure, and treatment is highly effective.
At Stage 2, a tumor actively grows, but cancer cells can spread only locally. Stage 3 is associated with spreading cancer cells in other tissues, including lymph nodes. Stage 4 is related to the most complicated cases when cancer cells spread to distant organs in the form of metastases (Ng et al., 2017). Professionals also identify a separate stage that can be classified as “carcinoma in situ,” which indicates the presence of abnormal or potentially cancerous cells in a person’s organs, although there are no tumors.
Complications of Cancer
The first group of complications of cancer includes the issues known in the context of paraneoplastic syndromes that develop as an organism’s reaction to tumors. It is possible to observe changes in the levels of hormones and other endocrine abnormalities. Additional complications include fatigue and pain at Stages 3 and 4 because the immune system of patients is affected, their organs function abnormally, and tumors can press on nerves and other tissues. These complications should be addressed along with providing radiation therapy and chemotherapy (Devlin, Denson, & Whitford, 2017). Patients with cancer can also suffer from anemia, hypercalcemia, and hypoglycemia because of biochemical changes in their bodies.
It is also possible to observe the cases of adrenal insufficiency, thrombosis, and cachexia, among other health problems. Furthermore, patients with cancer are susceptible to different types of infections after applied chemotherapy and surgery.
Finally, cancers also lead to changes in the work of the gastrointestinal tract, and individuals suffer from diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. A separate group of complications is related to changes in patient’s psychological and emotional states because of their disease, hormonal changes, and experienced pain (Nurgali, Jagoe, & Abalo, 2018). Patients are usually proposed to take medications or try herbal therapy and alternative methods in order to address their problems.
Side Effects of Treatment and Methods to Address Them
To treat cancer, surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are used, but these approaches have multiple side effects. Surgery is associated with the risk of infections because the immune system of patients is usually weak, the wound care can be inappropriate, and these patients are susceptible to microorganisms and bacteria. Radiation therapy has such side effects as diarrhea, constipation, nausea, skin irritation, loss of appetite, and fatigue. In the most complicated cases, patients suffer from difficulties with swallowing and delirium.
Chemotherapy usually causes nausea, kidney problems, constipation, fatigue, bleeding, anemia, diarrhea, numbness, and the loss of hair (Devlin et al., 2017). Patients can also experience problems with sleep, lose appetite, and suffer from anorexia, edema, and urinary problems. The severity of these side effects depends on individuals’ responses to therapies, the type of cancer, and their immune systems.
In order to decrease the physical and psychological effects of cancer and its treatment, it is necessary to prescribe effective medicines, psychological therapies and monitor changes in patients’ emotional health. The physical effects of cancer and its treatment are numerous, and they influence the quality of patients’ life. It is recommended to use individually selected pharmacological therapies to address the side effects of treatment and pain.
Relaxation techniques and alternative therapies are also used in order to help patients cope with discomfort (Nurgali et al., 2018). All these strategies are oriented toward relieving pain and decreasing the frequency and severity of nausea, vomiting, irritation, and other symptoms provoked by biochemical changes in individuals’ organisms and therapies.
Psychological effects that can be observed by patients usually include anxiety, stress, apathy, the feeling of pressure, depression, the feeling of despair, hopelessness, and even suicidal ideations. To address these problems, it is recommended to cooperate with counselors who can propose individual approaches to working with patients’ cases and help them accept their condition and find the strength to overcome it (Ng et al., 2017). Thus, patients with cancer usually need to participate in individual and group therapies, art classes, talk therapies, as well as learn relaxation techniques and strategies to cope with their anxiety and depression.
Approaches to care and treatment in the case of cancer can be different with reference to the type of tumors and stages. The selection of treatment modes and therapies is realized after completing all the required tests and determining the disease stage. In addition, it is also necessary to address possible complications associated with cancer that affects the functioning of different body systems. The problem is also that treatment approaches and therapies usually have side effects that cause much suffering for patients, and certain steps need to be taken to help individuals cope with physical and psychological effects.
Devlin, E. J., Denson, L. A., & Whitford, H. S. (2017). Cancer treatment side effects: A meta-analysis of the relationship between response expectancies and experience. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 54(2), 245-258.
Nagpal, M., Singh, S., Singh, P., Chauhan, P., & Zaidi, M. A. (2016). Tumor markers: A diagnostic tool. National Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery, 7(1), 17-20.
Ng, C. G., Mohamed, S., Kaur, K., Sulaiman, A. H., Zainal, N. Z., & Taib, N. A. (2017). Perceived distress and its association with depression and anxiety in breast cancer patients. PloS One, 12(3), 1-8.
Nurgali, K., Jagoe, R. T., & Abalo, R. (2018). Adverse effects of cancer chemotherapy: Anything new to improve tolerance and reduce sequelae? Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9, 245-249.