Over the last couple of decades, cancer has developed into one of the most life-threatening health conditions across the globe. According to health care experts, this phenomenon has been necessitated by factors such as technology, climate change, and poor lifestyle choices (Jorda, 2011). The prevalence of cancer cases has increased the workload of health care practitioners, as well as heightened the demand for improved care for patients. Recent studies have established that since the turn of the century, there has been an inclination towards more inclusive, holistic, and integrative health care plans. This scenario common among cancer patients, as they understand the importance of having treatment plans that are sensitive to their health care needs (Fiore, 2009). Health care experts argue that the global health care delivery system has changed a lot in the recent past owing to several factors.
The most notable ones include increased access to the internet, better management of health information, changing patient health care needs, and advances in medical science among others. In particular, the United States has the most dynamic health care delivery systems. Currently, there are more than 15 million cancer survivors in the United States. Reports indicate that more than 1.6 million people in the country are diagnosed with cancer every year (Jorda, 2011). However, this situation can be prevented by streamlining the health care system by addressing challenges relating to fragmentation and lack of preparedness. To improve the care for cancer patients, there is an urgent need to bridge the existing inequalities such as limited access to care services.
Diagnosis and staging of cancer
Diagnosis is one of the most important steps in the treatment and management of cancer. The main reason for this is the fact that the process helps in identifying the nature or cause of a phenomenon. In cancer treatment, diagnosis is also referred to as staging (Jorda, 2011). Staging plays a crucial role in identifying the location of cancer in the body, its severity, and the probability of spreading to other parts. Also, staging helps medical practitioners to come up with the most appropriate treatment plan, establish the chances of recovery, predict the possibility of cancer coming back, and form a basis for extensive research (Fiore, 2009). Doctors across the world rely on the Tumor Node Metastasis (TNM) system developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) to determine the stage of cancer in the body (Jorda, 2011). During staging, doctors seek to establish the size and location of a tumor, as well as its threat to the lymph nodes. In general, there are five major stages of cancer.
The first one is stage 0 cancer that refers to cancers that do not spread to other parts of the body beyond where they started. This type is treated through surgery, which removes the tumor (Fiore, 2009). The success rate of treatment for cancer at this stage is often very high. The second one is stage 1 cancer that involves a cancerous tumor that has managed to spread to other parts of the body albeit in its early phase. This is often described as localized cancer (Jorda, 2011). There is also stage 2 and 3 cancer that involves tumors that have managed to spread to surrounding tissues. Cancer mainly spreads to the lymph nodes before moving to other parts. Cancers in these two stages are often described as regional and distant cancers respectively. The last one is stage 4 cancer that entails tumors that have considerably spread to various parts of the body (Jorda, 2011).
Complications of cancer and its treatment
According to health care experts, there are several complications associated with cancer and the numerous methods used in treating it. One of the common complications of cancer is bodily pain (Gearhart, 2010). Although not all types are naturally painful, the medications used to treat them can lead to a patient experiencing a lot of throbbing. Fatigue has also been identified as another major complication of cancer and its treatment. This complication mainly comes about because of chemotherapy. However, doctors argue that fatigue caused by therapy treatments is often temporary and can be easily managed in case it poses a threat to the patient’s life. Cancer patients also have trouble breathing (Jacobs, 2010). Cases of short breath among cancer patients are very common, as health care experts argue that poor circulation of oxygen in the body is often a major predisposing factor to the development of cancer tumors in the body. The immune system also tends to have unusual reactions due to the presence of cancer cells in the body (Gearhart, 2010). This condition is often referred to as a paraneoplastic syndrome. Some of the notable symptoms of this condition include seizures and challenges in walking.
Cancer patients also complain of nausea. The disgusting feeling that makes one feel sick is often caused by different types of medication. Health care experts argue that this complication can be managed, especially in situations where the feeling is likely to affect the effectiveness of the treatment approach used (Jacobs, 2010). Cancer patients also tend to experience weight loss because cancer cells often take a lot of food and nutrients from normal cells to survive. This complication can worsen if a patient is not on a proper diet and lacks enough physical exercise. Research has also established that cancer causes several chemical changes in the body of an affected person (Gearhart, 2010). The chemical imbalance caused in the body by cancer often predisposes the patient to the danger of suffering further complications, which can be life-threatening. Some of the notable symptoms of a chemical imbalance in the body include constipation, disorder, excessive dehydration, and frequent urination among others. Health care experts also argue that several cancer patients also suffer from anemia because the disease often attacks the red blood cells that are responsible for circulating oxygen in the body (Jacobs, 2010). Other notable complications of cancer include reduced sexual urges and infertility in both men and women.
Methods of lessening the physical and psychological effects of cancer treatment
Cancer causes many emotional and physical effects on affected individuals. Over the years, health care experts have expressed the need for patients to manage such effects effectively as a way of improving their treatment outcomes (Gearhart, 2010). Some of the emotional effects that cancer patients deal with regularly include disbelief, guilt, uncertainty, depression, anxiety, vulnerability, and anger among others. According to health care experts, the services of a psychologist are an integral part of cancer treatment. Therapy helps a patient to be more relaxed and in greater control over their treatment plan. According to psychologists, it is important to ensure that cancer patients enjoy their life in the course of treatment regardless of the emotional burden associated with the process (Jacobs, 2010). Some of the most effective ways through which cancer patients can improve their psychological well being include reaching out to people about their feelings, making healthy lifestyle choices, identifying things that can be changed for a new outlook, and engaging in focus groups among others (Gearhart, 2010). All these strategies help a patient to eliminate the feelings of isolation and negligence. Cancer patients need to keep talking to close family and friends, as well as cancer survivors because they are in a better position to offer the necessary emotional support.
Cancer is one of the major causes of numerous deaths across the world. Over the years, numerous studies and advocacy campaigns have been conducted in a bid to make the disease more manageable. One of the major challenges to the effective management of cancer around the world is a lack of awareness. Most people are not aware of the benefits of regular screening and the role it plays in preventing the disease from spreading in the body as long as it is detected early enough. Another challenge faced in the management of the disease is dealing with the emotional and physical complications that come about because of the various treatment options available. The services of a psychologist are very important during cancer treatment, as a way of helping patients lessen the effects of various medications.
Fiore, N. (2009). Coping with the Emotional Impact of Cancer. Become an Active Patient and Take Charge of your Treatment. New York, NY: Bay Tree Pub.
Gearhart, S. (2010). Early Diagnosis and Treatment of Cancer Series. New York, NY: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Jacobs, L. (2010). Early Diagnosis and Treatment of Cancer Series: Breast Cancer. New York, NY: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Jorda, M. (2011). Effusion Cytology: A Practical Guide to Cancer Diagnosis. New York, NY: Demos Medical Publishing.