Approach to Cancer Care

Approach to Cancer Care

There are various forms of cancer, and they all start with the development and proliferation of abnormal cells. These proliferations lead to the growth of tumors which if left untreated can cause debilitation, illness, and death. Cancerous cells also grow into other tissues leading to the invasion of their cellular structure. In case the DNA structure of a cell is damaged the cell will try to repair itself and if it is unable, it dies. The problem with cancerous cells is that they do not die. They continue to replicate the DNA damaged cells thus spreading the disease.

These cancerous cells can invade all parts of the body including tissues, organs and body fluids where they invade the healthy cells and crowding them. This work will be discussing the diagnosis, stages, side effects and complications of cancer due to treatment as well as the means to reduce the mental and physical effects.

Diagnosis of cancer

It is imperative for physicians and nurses to understand the different types of cancer and their current stages. This proves helpful in the provision of accurate information to the families and the patients. Early cancer diagnosis is crucial for the reduction in mortality and prompt medical intervention. Cancer cells lead to malignant or benign tumors (Wardle, Robb, Vernon & Waller, 2015). The difference is that cancerous tumors usually spread to other parts of the body whereas benign tumors stay localized. The cancer diagnosis can be started off as a simple exercise such as the discussion one has with their doctor during the routine visits and checkups.

Relevant health history, as well as disease’s history in the family, is vital in identifying risk factors. Some kinds of cancers can be diagnosed via laboratory analysis of bodily fluids such as blood, urine among others for their values either high or low to help in determining this disease.

Imaging procedures are used to scan and produce pictures of regions in the body that enables the physician to tell whether a tumor is existent. There several medical imaging procedures that can be used including (CT) computerized tomography scans, ultrasounds, nuclear scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans and x-rays (Wardle et al., 2015). A CT scan procedure involves an x-ray device connected to a workstation to take a sequence of detailed pictures of an individual’s body parts. Dye to highlight areas inside the body can be used to help physicians to read and interpret the images easily (Wardle et al., 2015).

For nuclear scans, one receives a shot with a small amount of radioactive material known as a tracer. They flow through the bloodstream and collects in specific body regions. A scanner is used to identify and measure the radioactivity, and this creates pictures of organs in a film or a computer screen.
Ultrasound devices use sound waves that usually bounce off body tissues. A computer uses these resonances to generate pictures of body parts. These images are known as sonograms (Wardle et al., 2015). Sonograms can often be used to view tumors in the liver, kidneys, and abdomen.

In MRI, a powerful electromagnet is connected to a computer and is used to generate detailed images of body parts, and these can be viewed on a monitor or printed on film for use by a physician to identify tumors. PET scans involve the injection of a tracer then a device makes three-dimensional images that show where the tracer has collected in the body. They usually show how tissues and organs work. X-rays, on the other hand, uses low doses of radiation to generate pictures of your body’s insides (Wardle et al., 2015). They can include mammograms for breast cancer examination.

In case a person experiences any of the cancer warning signs, or their screening tests show a possibility of the disease’s occurrence then the medic will prefer performing a biopsy. Biopsy refers to surgically removing a small piece of tissue for microscopy examination. This helps a physician to know the presence or absence of a tumor and whether it is benign or malignant. In extracting tissues for biopsy, there are three methods involved namely surgical biopsy, needle biopsy, and endoscopy (Wardle et al., 2015).

In endoscopy, the doctor uses a thin, lighted tube that is inserted into the patient’s body to observe what is going on and can take images or remove pieces of tissue for inspection and analysis when necessary. For the needle technique, the physician takes a tiny sample of tissue by inserting a spike into the area of suspicion. For the surgical approach, they are of two kinds, excisional and incisional biopsies (Wardle et al., 2015). The excisional technique includes removal of the whole tumor together with some of the surrounding tissue whereas incisional technique consists of the removal of just a small piece of the growth for examination.

Cancer staging

Once a cancer diagnosis is through, the physician needs to learn the extent of the illness. This is known as staging; it tells the physician how far it has spread. Decisions about treatment are established on the staging outcomes. The typical stages of cancer include Carcinoma in Situ which is also known as stage 0 (Wardle et al., 2015). It is the earliest cancer phase. A cell usually mutates into a cancerous cell together with other cells in the same location forming a tumor in that tissue. This is often not a diagnosis of cancer but shows an increased risk of the disease. The malignant bodies are only found in the first cell layer in the primary site and do not attack the deeper flesh (Wardle et al., 2015).

Cancer stage I include the prime location but have not spread to the adjacent tissues. In phase IA, a small amount can be found in the deeper tissues. In phase IB a more significant amount of growth can be found in the tissues. At this stage, the disease has not reached to the proximate lymph nodes.

Cancer stage II: The cells have proliferated to the nearby areas but are still inside the initial site (Wardle et al., 2015). In stage IIA the cancerous cells will have spread beyond the prime location. In stage IIB, it will have spread to other tissues around the original spot. Cancer can be found in associated lymph nodes.
At stage III, cancer has already spread all over the adjacent areas (Wardle et al., 2015). At this stage, the tumor is usually large, and it is also found in the nearby lymph nodes.

Stage IV is the last stage where the disease has spread from its primary site to others organs or systems such as the primary diagnosis of lung cancer, but the cancer is found in the liver and bones (Wardle et al., 2015). This is the worst of the stages because of the disease spreading to other organs and systems. Surgery and radiation of the tumor are the preferred treatments at this stage.

Cancer complications

Mucositis is one of the complications associated with cancer. It occurs more in non-keratinized tissues like buccal, palatal, mucosa and ventral tongue among other body parts (DeSantis, Mariotto, Siegel, Stein, Kramer & Jemal, 2014). It usually starts by the second week of radiation therapy. Also, it can develop between the seventh and the fourteenth day after chemotherapy. It is higher in young people, and it is usually characterized by red, raw and tender oral mucosa which leads to pain, loss of taste leading to difficulty in eating and also predispose one to systemic infection. This can be managed by taking anti-inflammatory or topical steroids, therapeutic diets and avoidance of alcohol, irritant foods, and tobacco.

Secondary infections also occur, ranging from fungal, bacterial and viral infections. The most common fungal infection is by Candida albicans (Silver & Baima, 2013). This produces pain, burning taste and intolerance to certain foods. Bacterial infections usually affect the oral, gut and respiratory tract flora such E. coli and Pseudomonas which can cause toxicity and lesions (Silver & Baima, 2013). Also, viral infections can include recurrent herpes simplex as a result of chemotherapy and take longer to heal.

Osteoradionecrosis is another complication facing cancer patients which leads to the exposed bone after high doses of radiation (DeSantis et al., 2014). It usually results from radiation, non-healing wounds, and tissue breakdown. This often affects the bones of mastication especially the mandible more than the maxilla. Also lead to the loss of soft tissue, trismus, soft tissue necrosis, and pain (Silver & Baima, 2013). There are a variety of management strategies for the complication condition including, the use of systemic antibiotics, daily local irrigation in the affected parts, avoiding irritants and ensuring good oral hygiene.

Cancer treatment side effects

Cancer treatment is often quite difficult for families and patients as there are some detrimental side effects associated with the treatment options. They usually vary depending on the treatment’s location. Radiation therapy for gynecologic and prostate cancer causes diarrhea, pain and also affects sexuality (DeSantis et al., 2014). When the head and the neck regions are irradiated there are taste changes, dryness of the mouth, swelling, pain in the throat and the mouth and appetite loss.

There is diminished taste sensation due to the damage of the taste cells’ microvilli. Neurotoxicity is another side effect associated with cancer treatment especially chemotherapy. It occurs in the peripheral nerves leading to pain in the molar area (DeSantis et al., 2014). High doses of chemotherapy lead to conditions such as thrombocytopenia which is a life-threatening situation since the blood clotting process is inefficient, and the patient can bleed to death in case of even a minor injury.

The treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy predispose a cancer patient to other secondary infections such as viral, bacterial and fungal infections (DeSantis et al., 2014). They can include candidiasis, recurrent herpes simplex and they usually take longer to heal.

Patients are receiving chemotherapy experience vomiting, nausea and loss of appetite. Chemotherapy also leads to a condition known as alopecia where patient start to lose hair from their bodies (Silver & Baima, 2013).
Emotional distress is another side effect that affects cancer patient since some of them have to get on with their daily lives and responsibilities. This is usually brought about by the overwhelming results of being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, change in lifestyle, aggressive treatment options and the direct impacts of the tumors. This makes one live a stressful life because of all the requirements which exposed the patients to a high risk of depression.
Methods to lessen physical and psychological effects on cancer patients
On each appointment, nurses and physicians must always evaluate patients for depression. Formation of support groups including both the sick and the survivors is essential to better understand the condition and how to live with it (Silver & Baima, 2013). Also, ensuring that there is constant routine monitoring of all cancer patients in case of any incidences is also important. Early diagnosing and staging of cancer to expose the patient the appropriate treatment to avoid physical injuries which are as a result of chemotherapy and radiotherapy should be emphasized on. Minimization of the exposure to radiation during therapy is another method to lessen physical effects (Silver & Baima, 2013). Reducing exposure to the sun is also a strategy in reducing physical effects (Silver & Baima, 2013). Helping the patients make healthier lifestyle choices such as rest, nutrition, private time and exercises. The patients can also be advised to seek professional counseling services which can include individual, group or couple therapy (Silver & Baima, 2013). By helping the patients focus more on what they can change than what they cannot change. This makes them live a more positive life.


DeSantis, C. E., Lin, C. C., Mariotto, A. B., Siegel, R. L., Stein, K. D., Kramer, J. L., … & Jemal, A. (2014). Cancer treatment and survivorship statistics, 2014. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians, 64(4), 252-271.
Silver, J. K., & Baima, J. (2013). Cancer pre-habilitation: an opportunity to decrease treatment-related morbidity, increase cancer treatment options, and improve physical and psychological health outcomes. American journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation, 92(8), 715-727.
Wardle, J., Robb, K., Vernon, S., & Waller, J. (2015). Screening for prevention and early diagnosis of cancer. American Psychologist, 70(2), 119.

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