Cancer is a group of tumors that grow from cells of the skin and mucous membranes. Another name, sarcoma, refers to malignant tumors of muscle, bone, and adipose tissue. They tend to metastasize and invade healthy tissues of organs; therefore, surgical intervention does not always contribute to a positive result. It is best for a cure when the tumor can be detected at an early stage of its development, but such a diagnosis is somewhat tricky. For such detection of oncology at an early stage of development, patients need to know the signs of cancer. At the slightest suspicion, they should urgently consult an oncology specialist.
Oncological diseases are very insidious, so the first stages of the disease can be asymptomatic. Each person has an individual manifestation of the first signs of cancer. For preventing cancer at an early stage of development, a person should contact the medical center. Due to modern equipment and new diagnostic methods, the correct diagnosis can be made promptly, which means that the treatment of this challenging disease will begin on time. Early diagnosis will significantly increase a person’s chances of a full recovery.
The course of oncological diseases is conventionally divided into several stages. The first stage is characterized by the atypical cells division that has appeared (Zhou et al., 2017). In the second phase, a tumor forms and appears; metastases determine the third stage in other organs (Zhou et al., 2017). The fourth one is indicated by relapses and destruction of different organs and tissues; treatment at this stage is almost impossible.
Pain in patients with cancer is often associated with bone metastases, nerve or plexus involvement, pressure from a tumor, or effusion. Pain therapy is essential to treat disease and maintain quality of life. Another complication is pleural effusion, which must be drained if clinically apparent. Spinal cord compression can occur as a tumor spreads into the spine and requires urgent surgery or radiation therapy (Boussios et al., 2018). Symptoms may include back pain, paresthesias of the lower extremities, bowel, and bladder dysfunction (Boussios et al., 2018). Blood clots in the lower extremities’ veins are often diagnosed in patients with cancer of the pancreas, lungs, and other solid tumors, as well as in patients with brain tumors. Metabolic and immune complications include hypercalcemia, increased ACTH production, antibodies that cause neurological disorders, and hemolytic anemia.
Side Effects of Treatment
The choice of treatment method directly depends on the type of tumor cells, their location, stage of development, and the presence of metastases. Therapy is divided into radical ways, aimed at destroying the tumor and cancer cells, and palliative, reducing the symptoms and alleviating the patient’s general condition. By the timing of the occurrence, adverse reactions are immediate and delayed. Immediate unwanted symptoms occur directly during drug administration or the first days of treatment. These include skin redness, swelling, allergic reactions, fever, dizziness, chest tightness, increased blood pressure, palpitations, nausea, vomiting, severe weakness, body aches, rash (Devlin et al., 2017). Post medication and attentive attitude to the patient at the time of administration of drugs allow avoiding many side effects, such as allergic reactions, necrosis at the injection sites, nausea, vomiting.
Some patients may experience memory disorders, problems with attention, and depression. The reason for such violations is associated with the stress that a person undergoes. The patient may have thoughts of suicide as a possible solution to the problem. These thoughts reflect their desire to control their lives, since, with a disease, patients have a feeling of loss of control over the situation. After the shock caused by the message about the diagnosis, the patient has to go through several stages: denial, aggression, depression, attempts to agree with fate – each step contributes to accepting the disease.
Methods to Lessen Physical and Psychological Effects
With modern treatment regimens, when long-term infusions are increasingly used, daily administration of drugs for a long time, or several injections during the day, various types of catheters have become frequently used to minimize trauma to peripheral veins. The use of catheters avoids complications such as phlebitis. When inserting a catheter into a vein, the medical staff should explain to the patient what symptoms should be noticed, such as swelling at the catheter position, burning sensation, skin redness, and fever (Jones et al., 2016). Correct use of adequate doses of antiemetics avoids such unpleasant side effects as nausea and vomiting, which are typical for many anticancer drugs. These complications, in extreme severity, are fraught with such severe consequences as dehydration of the body, violation of water and electrolyte balance. They also can contribute to the divergence of the edges of the wound in operated patients, the occurrence of pneumonia (Jones et al., 2016). Among all the complications of chemotherapy, nausea and vomiting are perhaps the most considerable deterioration in patients’ quality of life. In the absence of adequate antiemetic support, they sometimes become the reason for refusal of treatment.
Moreover, cancer is a traumatic disease because it threatens life and undermines the general ideas about it. The patient’s positive emotional state depends on how medical staff treats the patient, whether there is an individual approach. Cancer patients are ready to receive mental help from a psychologist – and some of them tend to seek support from a nurse. Patients say trusting nurses help them cope with anxiety and fear of the procedure (Jones et al., 2016). Most oncology nurses also feel obligated to provide psychological support to patients, but believe that they do not have the competencies. They are good at additional psychology training, but due to constant fatigue and a lot of stress, their readiness would be significantly influenced by the time it would take to prepare.
Mortality Rates of Cancers in the United States
Until the end of the 20th century, mortality from oncology in the United States was growing steadily. According to the study provided by the American Cancer Society (2019), from 1991 to 2016 – deaths from cancer in the United States decreased by 27%. According to ACS experts (2019), the main reasons for the decrease in mortality are the reduction in the number of smokers, early diagnosis, and an increase in the quality of treatment. Currently, the most common cancers diagnosed in American men are prostate, colon, and lung cancers. They account for 42% of diagnosed cases in women, including breast, colon, and lung cancer. Moreover, breast cancer accounts for 30% of all cases (Simon, 2019). Cancer remains the top three leading causes of death in the United States, second only to cardiovascular disease.
The most significant concern for medical institutions is the spread of liver cancer associated with an increase in the incidence of hepatitis C. Besides, the number of deaths from diseases related to obesity, such as pancreatic cancer, is steadily increasing. Also, researchers point to a marked gap in cancer death rates between affluent and poor Americans. For example, until the early 70s of the last century, the death rate in impoverished areas of the country from colon cancer was 20% lower than in the wealthy, and now it is 30% higher. As noted by the ACS, these deaths could have been avoided if the population had funds for early diagnosis, better treatment, and healthy nutrition.
American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society (ACS) is fighting to prevent cancer, save lives, and reduce the suffering of patients through research and education. Scientific discoveries drive progress in the fight against cancer. ACS offers several educational resources for cancer physicians and other healthcare professionals in the clinical oncology field (Simon, 2019). Besides, various campaigns are being carried out to educate the population in this area. For example, the American Cancer Society has released updated diet and exercise guidelines for cancer prevention (Simon, 2019). The main tasks are to finance research and the development of new methods and means of prevention. The association promotes the development and improvement of research and scientific activities of research institutes, research centers, treatment, and prevention institutions of an oncological profile or individual specialists in oncology.
Concerning helpful ACS services, the psychological assistance service is a charitable non-profit project. By calling the hotline or by email, an experienced specialist will help cancer patients and their relatives make a decision and provide information and psychological support in a difficult life situation. A person might give recommendations on what to do first, and inform the address of the nearest oncological institution where they can provide medical assistance.
Providing Effective Care across the Life Span
A medical and a nurse’s duties include a detailed discussion with the patient of all issues of the upcoming treatment. The patient should be informed about the severity of the therapy and the possibility and expected timing of adverse reactions. They usually go away on their own, without special treatment, but sometimes may require the appointment of symptomatic drugs and hospitalization. The lack of appropriate prescribed symptomatic therapy in some cases can lead to severe consequences and even death.
It is important to explain to the patient that any changes in well-being are of interest to the doctor and the nurse, even if, at first glance, they do not deserve attention. In turn, the nurse must immediately inform the attending physician about all changes in the patient’s state of health that were noticed (Tadman et al., 2019). A person must be able to report all the changes in their state of health when they are receiving treatment on an outpatient basis or when adverse reactions have developed during their stay at home. In some cases, advice on eliminating specific adverse reactions can be given by phone; it is desirable that the patient also has information about what drugs were administered during treatment.
The key to successful treatment is the patient’s and the medical staff’s strict adherence to the recommendations for pre-and post-medication, aimed at reducing the risk of unwanted side reactions. No less important is adherence to the established terms of treatment and examination, ensuring the maximum effectiveness of therapy (Tadman et al., 2019). It becomes possible only in close contact and a trusting relationship between the medical staff and the patient.
Ultimately, quality of life is the best indicator of a patient’s overall health. Currently, particular questionnaires have been developed and widely used in clinical trials to assess patients’ well-being at any stage of the treatment process. Supportive therapy aims to improve the quality of life in the process of anticancer drug therapy. It consists of the prevention and treatment of adverse reactions and individual symptoms of the disease and psycho-social support for cancer patients.
Liberal Arts and Medical Science
The development of modern medicine is closely related to the phenomenon of transdisciplinarity. In medicine, there is a process of accumulating empirical scientific knowledge, the methods of integration, and the differentiation of information. Combining international and national efforts contributes to the development of medical education globally and ensures the progress of this vital section of human activity. The curriculum considers the presence of priority groups of diseases characteristic of different regions of the world, the principles of primary and secondary prevention. The relevance and importance of liberal arts education in medicine are undeniable, since it forms moral values, forms the basis of professional communication between a nurse and a patient. The ideas of integrative medicine and the corresponding medical and humanitarian education are projects for the future.
The Liberal Arts model is committed to serving the global community. This can be achieved by maintaining student interest in the study of interpersonal relationships within their major subjects or additional courses. In terms of educational internationalization, academic mobility of students and teachers, all participants in the educational process are expected to be willing to work with representatives of different cultures and ethnic groups. Such training develops curiosity, critical knowledge, self-knowledge, a sense of social responsibility, and communication skills, which are essential components of proper patient care.
Boussios, S., Cooke, D., Hayward, C., Kanellos, F. S., Tsiouris, A. K., Chatziantoniou, A. A., Zakynthinakis-Kyriakou, N., & Karathanasi, A. (2018). Metastatic spinal cord compression: Unraveling the diagnostic and therapeutic challenges. Anticancer Research, 38(9), 4987-4997. Web.
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. Web.
Jones, J. M., Olson, K., Catton, P., Catton, C. N., Fleshner, N. E., Krzyzanowska, M. K., McCready, D. R., Wong, R. K. S., Jiang, H., & Howell, D. (2016). Cancer-related fatigue and associated disability in post-treatment cancer survivors. Journal of Cancer Survivorship, 10(1), 51-61. Web.
Simon, S. (2019). Facts & figures 2019: US cancer death rate has dropped 27% in 25 years. American Cancer Society. Web.
Tadman, M., Roberts, D., & Foulkes, M. (Eds.). (2019). Oxford handbook of cancer nursing (2nd edition). Oxford University Press.
Zhou, Y., Abel, G. A., Hamilton, W., Pritchard-Jones, K., Gross, C. P., Walter, F. M., Renzi, C., Johnson, S., McPhail, S., Elliss-Brookes, L., & Lyratzopoulos, G. (2017). Diagnosis of cancer as an emergency: a critical review of current evidence. Nature reviews Clinical oncology, 14(1), 45. Web.