Cancer is a dangerous illness that takes a heavy toll on a person and can be fatal if left untreated for too long. However, its early expressions can be challenging to diagnose correctly, and the severity of the condition may appear low until it is too late to treat it. Therefore, detailed knowledge of the diagnosis and staging methods for cancer as well as the possible complications and treatment methods for the condition is vital for medical specialists. This essay provides an overview of the topics mentioned above and summarizes the approach to the care of cancer patients.
Cancer Diagnosis and Staging
The primary indicator for the presence of cancer is the appearance of issues with a body part, particularly pain. The most common areas to be affected by the condition are breasts, lungs, and the prostate. Depending on the location, a specialist can perform specific diagnosis procedures, such as mammography or a digital rectal exam. Latimer and Mott (2015) describe more general approaches that can be applied to most variations of cancer, such as a complete blood count test, measurement of specific factors, radiography, and tissue analysis. If the evaluation confirms the presence of the disease, further procedures become necessary to determine the severity and spread of the condition, collectively known as staging.
Awareness of the stage of a patient’s cancer is vital to administering the appropriate treatments and recording accurate information. According to Gress et al. (2017), the American Joint Committee on Cancer and the Union for International Cancer Control collaborate to establish a separate staging system for each known type of cancer. The primary factors in the evaluation are the severity of the primary tumor, the involvement of regional lymph nodes, and the presence of distant metastases. They combine with the clinical classification of the condition’s discovery and a variety of suffixes to form abbreviations that contain most of the relevant information about a specific patient’s condition.
Cancer Treatment and Care
The treatments for various types of cancer are as varied as the diagnosis and staging methods. Nevertheless, several approaches are used in most situations and can be considered adequate. These approaches include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgical intervention. However, the current technology does not enable a possibility of a full recovery for every patient, and medical workers should be prepared to begin administering palliative care to patients with severe cases of the condition.
The probability of a cancer patient’s survival largely depends on the presence of distant metastases. According to Latimer and Mott (2015), over 50% of patients with localized tumors may survive for five years after diagnosis, but those with a distant disease have less than a 5% chance to live that long. They also note that early palliative care improves quality of life for patients, reduces depression, and may prolong their survival. Overall, initiation of the appropriate care approach may improve the outcomes for all cancer patients.
Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with specialized medications to slow its growth or eliminate it. It is the most well-known and widely used method of combating the disease. However, it has significant side effects, as it also affects the healthy cells and prevents their growth along with the affected ones. The most common results are fatigue, nausea, mouth sores, and hair loss. Chemotherapy is also expensive due to the quantity and complexity of the medications involved, often contributing the most to a patient’s treatment costs.
Radiation therapy is the bombardment of areas that contain cancer tumors with high doses of radiation that damage and eventually kill the problematic cells. The procedure accomplishes the result by damaging the DNA of cancer cells, removing their ability to reproduce, which is their primary threat. However, the effects are slow, requiring significant periods of exposure, and there are limits to the total dose of radiation that a person can receive in his or her lifetime. Furthermore, like chemotherapy, radiation therapy indiscriminately affects healthy cells as well, which results in similar side effects.
Lastly, surgery can be used for most types of cancer due to its approach of directly removing the afflicted tissues altogether. However, it is not always appropriate, as the removal of some growths may endanger the life of the patient. This concern is especially valid for cancers with distant metastases, as the physical removal of the primary tumor and the metastases all at once would most likely kill the patient, and waiting for them to recover would result in the formation of further growths, effectively resetting the progress of the treatment. Nevertheless, in severe cases, surgery can be used to ease the condition by removing tumors that cause the patient discomfort.
Cancer treatment measures are often drastic, and they can cause various side effects and complications. Many of the issues are associated with surgery due to the popularity of the approach and the damage to the body that is necessary to conduct an operation. Examples of the side effects of other methods are provided above and tend to be less severe and not have a long-term impact on a patient’s condition. Due to the variety of cancer conditions and treatments, numerous possible complications exist, and some of them are listed below.
Vulvar cancer is among the most common genital tract cancers in women, and an inguinofemoral lymphadenectomy is a common approach to its treatment. However, according to Cirik et al. (2015), the procedure leads to complications such as wound infection, breakdown, lower limb lymphedema, and lymphocyst formation in a significant portion of cases, even when specialists who are experienced in the area conduct it. Furthermore, no clear predictors for the appearance of issues are known at the moment, although obesity and advanced age are both associated with postoperative complications.
There are multiple surgical approaches to the treatment of low rectal or anal canal cancers. They include open and laparoscopic abdominoperineal resection surgeries, which are performed for patients with anorectal cancer or those for whom an anterior resection would not be suitable. However, according to Rao (2015), the procedures are both associated with a variety of issues, such as chest infection, urinary retention, and male as well as female sexual dysfunction. Laparoscopic surgery displays a reduced rate for most complications but does not eliminate them.
Spinal metastatic tumors are among the most dangerous kinds, and their treatment is mostly palliative. However, de la Garza-Ramos et al. (2016) claim that recent technological advances enable the surgical treatment of spinal metastases, although it remains a risky proposition with high probabilities of the procedure resulting in morbidity or mortality. They note the most common complications to be vascular injuries, visceral organ complications, and cerebrospinal fluid leaks. Death is also a notable possibility in spinal tumor surgeries, making further research and improvement critical to the success of the field.
Reduction of Physical and Psychological Effects
One of the goals of palliative care is to enhance the quality of life of the patient. According to Mustian et al. (2017), exercise-based therapies and nutrition counseling significantly and positively influence the well-being of the targeted groups, while pharmacological treatments are not practical and should be reserved for people who cannot benefit from other methods. Care providers should incorporate physical activity into care programs for cancer patients to reduce the effects of the condition on the body and improve outcomes.
Psychological health is also a critical contributor to the well-being of a patient, and it is particularly relevant for people undergoing palliative care. Mustian et al. (2017) note that psychological interventions, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, are effective at improving the conditions of the patients, especially those with an early stage of the disease. They add that group-based methods are more suitable to the situation than individual ones. Overall, the combination of exercise, nutrition guidance, and psychological intervention is vital to ensuring the best quality of life for patients and maintaining their physical and mental health.
Cancer is a dangerous condition that comes in a large number of varieties that demand specific diagnostic and treatment approaches. Knowledge of how to detect and stage a tumor is vital to a medical practitioner. Numerous treatments are available for combating the condition, but it is still incurable in many cases, and the medical workers should be prepared to begin administering early palliative care. Furthermore, the treatments are accompanied by a variety of side effects and complications, which should be taken into account when planning further treatment. Lastly, care settings should incorporate a range of physical, nutritional, and psychological interventions to maintain the well-being of patients.
Cirik, D. A., Karalok, A., Ureyen, I., Tasci, T., Kalyoncu, R., Turkmen, O.,… Turan, T. (2015). Early and late complications after inguinofemoral lymphadenectomy for vulvar cancer. Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, 16(13), 5175-5179.
De la Garza-Ramos, R., Kerezoudis, P., Bydon, A., Sciubba, D. M., Puffer, R. C., Clarke, M.,… Bydon, M. (2016). Complications in metastatic spinal tumor surgery. World Spinal Column Journal, 7(1), 20-24.
Gress, D. M., Edge, S. B., Greene, F. L., Washington, M. K., Asare, E. A., Brierley, J. D.,… Amin, M. B. (2017). Principles of cancer staging. In M. B. Amin et al. (Eds.), AJCC cancer staging manual (8th ed.) (pp. 3-30). Chicago, IL: American College of Surgeons.
Latimer, K. M., & Mott, T. F. (2015). Lung cancer: Diagnosis, treatment principles, and screening. American Family Physician, 91(4), 250-257.
Mustian, K. M., Alfano, C. M., Heckler, C., Kleckner, A. S., Kleckner, I. R., Leach, C. R., …, Miller, S. M. (2017). Clinical benefits of exercise and psychological interventions in patients with cancer-related fatigue. JCOM, 24(5), 200-207.
Rao, A. M. K. (2015). Laparoscopic assisted versus open abdominoperineal resection for low rectal adenocarcinoma: A comparison in respect of postoperative recovery and complications. Pakistan Journal of Medical & Health Sciences, 9(1), 10-13.