Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment: Nursing Care

Introduction

There is an array of severe conditions, which negatively affect public health and contribute to the increased mortality rates. Cancer remains a topical issue in the healthcare environment, threatening a large portion of the population and posing considerable challenges for the system. It comprises many varieties, the effects of which differ depending on the disease type, stage, and location. Cancer has been an area of intense interest for medical researchers, and treatment methods are constantly updated. Nevertheless, despite recent advancements, cancer mortality rates remain high. The health care system must develop effective treatment techniques for cancer patients, and nurses play a role of paramount importance in this process. The purpose of this paper is to examine the issue of cancer care from the perspective of nursing.

Diagnosis and Staging of Cancer

The process of cancer treatment begins with an accurate diagnosis of the disease. It may happen in a variety of settings, including routine medical examinations. Nevertheless, one may observe the tendency to contact oncologists when the symptoms become evident and concerning. A cancer diagnosis is a complex procedure, comprising various factors, which may facilitate or, on the contrary, impede the correct conclusions. The exact procedure may vary depending on which part of a patient’s body is suspected of having cancer. Normally, the reason for concern is examined with the use of such conventional methods as X-Ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Stabile et al. (2020) argue that older methods lead to misdiagnosing in many cases and propose a wider implementation of new techniques, such as multiparametric MRI, in the case of prostate cancer. If the screening reveals a potentially malignant tumor within a patient’s system, a biopsy is recommended in order to examine its cells in a laboratory. Each stage of the diagnosis procedure is essential, as incorrect assumptions of the medical staff may leave a potentially lethal disease unnoticed.

Once the presence of cancer in one’s system has been clearly established, the stage of the disease must be determined, as well. At this point, medical professionals must correctly estimate the degree to which malignant cells have infiltrated the organism. In 1977, the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) introduced a comprehensive staging system known as TNM (Giuliano et al., 2018). This paradigm considers the size of the tumor (T), the nodal status (N), and the presence of metastases (M) in other organs. Based on each parameter, it is possible to put a patient’s condition in one of the four categories. Stage 1 signifies that the disease is concentrated in one small area, making it easier to cure. At Stage 2, cancer begins to grow into other tissues, affecting the nearby lymph nodes by Stage 3. Stage 4, also known as advanced cancer, is diagnosed when metastases are found in other organs, making the prognosis considerably worse. Unless a patient undergoes regular, thorough examinations, cancer might only reveal itself by Stage 3, and the treatment outcome is uncertain in this case.

Cancer Complications and Treatment Side Effects

Cancer remains a highly debilitating condition, as its late stages affect multiple elements of the human body. Most cancer patients experience weight loss and general fatigue, which substantially lowers the quality of life. While the disease damages the organ in which it is formed, to a substantial degree, its metastases have an even more profound impact. In later stages, metastases spread throughout a patient’s body, and some of them affect even the bones. According to Tsuzuki et al. (2016), such development entails a range of severe skeletal complications. First of all, patients experience serious cancer-induced bone pains, which can only be reduced with the use of strong medication. Secondly, metastases may damage the integrity of one’s bones, making them less solid. Consequently, pathological bone fractures occur under a slight amount of physical pressure, which practically incapacitates the patient. Finally, cancer complications may affect a person’s spinal cord, which is one of the most important bones in the body. Generally, cancer cells are highly damaging to the physiology of the human body, and such complications prevent its normal functioning.

At the same time, as damaging as cancer is, its treatment is a highly challenging process for the patient, as well. Conventional methods include chemotherapy, as well as radiotherapy, which is damaging procedures. Chang et al. (2017) discuss cancer treatment complications in the context of a person’s cardiovascular system. According to the research, modern therapy methods can cause serious myocardial damage and alter cardiac conduction. As a result, patients leave treatment facilities with a range of chronic conditions. According to Chang et al. (2017), the impact of such complications can be mitigated through effective cardiotoxicity reduction strategies. For example, it is proposed to devoted additional attention to the chemotherapy medication dosage to maintain its effectiveness while keeping the toxicity to a minimum. Overall, in-depth research and understanding of the issues related to cancer and treatment complications will allow nurses and other practitioners to provide their patients with quality treatment with a smaller impact on the quality of life.

Factors Contributing to Cancer Incidence and Mortality

While the origins of cancer and the factors contributing to its development in a person’s body remain an area of intense interest, several disease-inducing aspects of modern life have been established. Random genetic mutations are considered to be one of the sources of cancer but are barely possible to control their influence. At the same time, Song and Giovannucci (2016) state that certain lifestyle patterns also play an important role in cancer incidence rates. First, cancer is often associated with unhealthy habits, such as alcohol abuse and smoking. Research conducted by Song and Giovannucci (2016) demonstrates that people without such habits, indeed, demonstrate a lower cancer incidence rate. Simultaneously, obesity and eating disorders are also often mentioned among factors, which contribute to the development of severe health conditions, including various cancers, and this issue is equally topical for the United States. Additionally, observations show that a stressful life, which is often the case in the modern environment, also undermines the body’s ability to resist such mutations. A healthy lifestyle appears to be an effective means of cancer prevention, and the lack thereof contributes to the disease’s incidence and mortality rates.

American Cancer Society

Patients who encounter the dreadful diagnosis experience a particular need for support. While family members and caregivers usually provide a substantial amount of help, such people would benefit from professional expertise. The American Cancer Society (ACS) is a major organization, which aims at providing the necessary education and support for people with cancer, as well as for their beloved ones. Society states that its mission is to free the world from cancer through comprehensive research, expert education, and overall support (“American Cancer Society,” n.d.) The ACS specialists conduct studies and work with the public on a variety of issues. Cancer patients may benefit from their expertise by realizing that they are not alone in this unfortunate situation and learning more about modern treatment methods. Experts of the ACS provide indispensable information regarding the number of patients who successfully recover from cancer, which serves as a source of empowerment. Simultaneously, those who are aware of the cancer risks can receive credible information regarding disease prevention and healthy habits. Such organizations have an important mission of informing communities that cancer can be defeated through careful planning and responsible behaviors.

Nursing Care and Support for Cancer Patients

Nurses play a pivotal role in the process of health care delivery, being the bridge between their patients and other members of the clinical staff. In the context of cancer treatment, a nurse’s position gains increased importance, as it becomes particularly essential to ensure quality communication. People who are diagnosed with cancer are naturally susceptible to negative emotions, depression, and anxiety. Therefore, as dictated by the patient-centered model, a nurse’s priority is to provide them with the required level of comfort and recognition throughout the lifespan. During the assessment phase, a nurse must help their patient evaluate the threat. Next, in the course of diagnosing, it is vital to provide accurate results and inform the patient in a delicate manner.

At the planning stage, the nurse must ensure that all patient’s considerations are taken into account by the medical team, which is one of the principles of patient-centered care. As the treatment plan is being implemented, it must correspond with the plan, which was devised during the previous phase. Finally, the evaluation is another important step for cancer patients, as it determines whether the treatment was successful. The nursing objectives at this point would include the active involvement of both parties. As doctors decide whether the cancer treatment led to any progress and can be continued, patients have the right to evaluate the process from their own perspective. A nurse must enable an honest yet respectful exchange of opinions, which would make the whole process beneficial for the health service recipient. The notion of respect and recognition of the patient’s needs threads throughout all five phases, as it has become the cornerstone of modern, patient-centered health care practices.

The Role of Interdisciplinary Research Area in Nursing Education and Knowledge

The principles of modern education imply that each specialist must demonstrate several academic and general competencies. While the entire lifelong learning process of nurses focuses on the various aspects of health and patient care, other disciplines cannot be disregarded. Natural sciences provide nurses with a deeper understanding of the basic processes of the universe, enhancing their intellectual capabilities. Consequently, nursing specialists acquire such important skills as quick and critical thinking, which is useful in a variety of settings. In addition, social sciences allow medical practitioners to develop indispensable personal competencies in terms of patient communication. Accordingly, while it is important to excel in the primary area of expertise, the modern health care environment requires nurses to maintain multilateral development.

Conclusion

Cancer treatment begins with an accurate diagnosis, which determines the stage of the disease and the possibility of further treatment. Patients who experience such a difficult condition remain in a particularly vulnerable position, as they may suffer from depression and anxiety. There are organizations, which aim at educating people on cancer prevention and treatment, along with providing necessary support. However, nurses remain the primary source of professional support for cancer patients, as their active involvement is indispensable at all stages of the process. In order to fully accomplish the missions set by the patient-centered care principles, nurses must be well-educated in a variety of spheres. This way, their participation in cancer treatment will be likely to bring positive results for all parties involved.

References

(n.d.).

Amin, M. B., Greene, F. L., Edge, S. B., Compton, C. C., Gershenwald, J. E., Brookland, R. K., Meyer, L., Gress, D. M., Byrd, D. R., & Winchester, D. P. (2017). . CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 67(2), 93–99.

Chang, H. M., Moudgil, R., Scarabelli, T., Okwuosa, T. M., & Yeh, E. T. H. (2017). Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 70(20), 2536–2551.

Giuliano, A. E., Edge, S. B., & Hortobagyi, G. N. (2018). . Annals of Surgical Oncology, 25, 1783–1785.

Stabile, A., Giganti, F., Rosenkrantz, A. B., Taneja, S. S., Villeirs, G., Gill, I. S., Allen, C., Emberton, M., Moore, C. M., & Kasivisvanathan, V. (2020). Nature Reviews Urology, 17, 41–61.

Tsuzuki, S., Park, S. H., Eber, M. E., Peters, C. M., & Shiozawa, Y. (2016). International Journal of Urology, 23(10), 825–832.

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