Approach to Care: Cancer Patient


Cancer is one of the most dreaded words in the dictionary. When doctors make the pronouncement that a certain patient has cancer, it is the same as a death sentence. People are afraid of the word cancer, because this is a medical condition that is technically without a cure. It is therefore important for doctors to make the correct diagnosis. It is also equally important to detect the severity of the problem. After several tests and after an expert diagnosis have been made, the appropriate approach to care is to deal with the psychological and physical impacts of the disease, and the side effects of the cancer-based treatment methods.

Diagnosing Cancer

Due to the psychological and emotional impact of the pronouncement that a person has cancer, there is no way to overemphasize the importance of giving the correct diagnosis. The first step in the diagnostic process is to consider and examine symptoms. Once the doctors are able to pinpoint the likely symptoms, a series of tests is conducted in order to figure out if the symptom was the outcome of cancer or due to the result of another unrelated medical condition.

Doctors utilize at least three major steps, and these are: lab tests; imaging procedures; and biopsy (National Cancer Institute, 2017). They use lab tests in order to figure the levels of concentration of specific substances in the bloodstream, because the high or low levels of certain substances are indicators of cancer cells. Imaging procedures are useful in identifying the presence of tumors in certain parts of the body. On the other hand, a biopsy is a procedure that calls for the removal of a particular tissue or fluid. Physicians or specialists are going to study the sample tissue under the microscope in order to confirm or nullify the suggestion that the patient has cancer.

The Staging of Cancer

After the diagnostic stage, the next step is to determine the severity of the medical condition. Doctors take note of the size of the tumor, and if the spread of the malignant group of cells are affecting adjacent organs or even distant tissues (Morris et al., 2013). It is imperative to figure out the “staging of a cancer” in order to determine the following: predict the survival of the patient; figure out the most appropriate type of treatment; and to determine if the patient is a suitable candidate for a clinical trial (Morris et al., 2013).

Doctors usually assign numbers as in Stage I to Stage IV indicating the severity of the problem. Stage I is given when the size of the tumor is relatively small. In this particular stage, the tumor cells are not yet spreading into nearby organs, such as lymph nodes and other parts of the body (Morris et al., 2013).

The progression reaches Stage II or III when the size of the tumor cells are relatively larger, and that the cancerous mass of cells had shown signs of growing deeply into a nearby tissue (Morris et al., 2013). However, in this particular stage, the malignant cells are not yet invading the other parts of the human body. Finally, the evolution of the disease reaches Stage IV when abnormal cells are spreading to other organs. At this point, the cancer is in the advanced stage of development.

Three Complications of Cancer

There are several complications of cancer known to the scientific community. Some of the most common and easily detected are those that are associated with feelings of pain, fatigue, and nausea. However, for the purpose of this study, it is best to look into more difficult complications. For example, a major complication of the dreaded disease is weight loss. This phenomenon is the indirect result of the treatment. Nonetheless, in many cases, the problem is attributed to the way cancer cells absorb nutrients intended for other organs and tissues.

Another significant complication of the said medical condition is the pronounced chemical changes in the patient’s body. As a result, patients often complain of suffering from excessive thirst and constipation. Cancer also causes brain and nervous system problems (Mayo Clinic, 2017). For example, the tumor’s growth exerts pressure on nearby nerves causing pain or loss of function (Mayo Clinic, 2017).

Side Effects of Treatment

The most common treatment method in dealing with cancer cells is the introduction of chemicals into the body, and this is known as chemotherapy. When powerful drugs enter the system, these chemicals are able to damage hair follicles causing minimal to significant hair loss. It is a reassuring fact to know that patients are able to grow their hair back.

There is also a phenomenon called chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting (OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, 2017). The scientific community does not have a definitive answer as to the root cause of the problem. However, health experts are saying that the manifestation of nausea and vomiting is linked to the type of chemo drugs used, the dosage, and frequency of use. In addition, women are more susceptible to this type of problem, especially if they experienced morning sickness when they were pregnant (OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, 2017).

A number of related psychological and emotional problems are oftentimes the end-result of chemotherapy. Patients oftentimes complain of negative feelings, such as, anxiety, fear, and other forms of emotional distress (OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, 2017). It is also common to experience bouts of depression after going through this type of treatment.

Methods to Lessen Physical Effects

When it comes to hair loss one way to lessen the side effects is to anticipate the possibility of losing a lot of hair as the treatment process progresses into several cycles of application. Thus, one way to cope with this problem is by using a wig or artificial hair (American Cancer Society, 2017). It is also an effective morale booster to remind patients that it is possible for the hair to grow back even before the end of the chemo treatment.

When it comes to chemo-related nausea and vomiting the less than ideal way to deal with this issue is to ingest another type of medicine. For people that are severely affected by vomiting and nausea, it is important to take the drug before going through chemo sessions.

When it comes to weight loss, patient and family members must remain vigilant in recording any significant weight changes. A loss of several pounds requires the attention of a health specialist. It is important to manage weight loss issues, because the failure to do so may affect the patient’s ability to perform certain tasks (American Cancer Society, 2017).

Methods to Lessen Psychological Effects

Feelings of worry, feelings of sorrow, and feelings of confusion are three of the major types of cancer-related psychological effects (LIVESTRONG, 2017). There are different ways to cope with these negative thoughts and emotions. People react differently during the diagnosis and the treatment process. However, it is best to deal with worry issues by scheduling follow-up health care and screenings (LIVESTRONG, 2017). It is also a good idea to have regular communication with a health care provider or a counsellor adept at handling this type of problems.

Those that are hit hard by the diagnosis and the impact of the treatment process may succumb to more serious mental struggles. For those that are showing signs of depression, it is best to seek the help of an expert in this type of mental health problem. In some cases, the best course of action is to take anti-depressant medication.


Due to the psychological and emotional impact of cancer on the individual and to his or her family, it is imperative to get the right diagnosis. After confirming the presence of malignant cells, it is also important to figure out the severity of the problem in order to subscribe to the best form of treatment. In the worst case scenario, “the staging of cancer” helps determine the patient’s chances of survival. This is a critical step for patients with Stage IV cancer.

Nonetheless, it is best to hope for a successful recovery. However, the best form of treatment will not shield the patient from undesirable side effects and complications. Patients may struggle from side effects and complications from weight loss to hair loss. The more difficult issues are those that are related to psychological issues. It is best to seek the assistance of a specialist before unnecessary complications may occur due to the inability to deal with depression and other forms of mental health problems.


American Cancer Society. (2017). Managing cancer-related side-effects. Web.

LIVESTRONG. (2017). Emotions after cancer treatment. Web.

Mayo Clinic. (2017). Diseases and conditions: Cancer. Web.

Morris, C., Ramirez, C., Cook, S., Parikh-Patel, A., Kizer, K., Bates, J. & Snipes, K. (2013). Cancer stage at diagnosis. Sacramento, CA: California Cancer Registry.

National Cancer Institute. (2017). Diagnosis and staging. Web.

OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. (2017). Physical side-effects of cancer and cancer treatment. Web.