Cancer is a condition where there is abnormal growth of cells in the body and has the ability to move from one place to another. The condition is also known as malignancy. Not all tumors are cancerous but all types of cancer are tumors. There are over one hundred types of cancer known at the moment by scientists. Cancer will be named according to the location present in the body. For cancer to be treated diagnosis must done, pathology carried on for treatment to be prescribed. Cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Most of the time tumor has been believed to be cancer but scientists have found that this is not the case. Diagnosing of cancer occurs when cell or tissue sample is critically studied under a microscope. For a doctor to tell presence of cancer and to prescribe the best treatment option, tests are done on the cell proteins, DNA and RNA or even on blood to detect presence of cancer. Lumps present at various places in the body but not always are they cancer. When a doctor carefully examine the lump, other related diseases may be present. The procedure taken to test a sample to identify the disease is called biopsy. The process is known as pathology (Livingston-Wheeler, 1972).
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The various tests conducted include; full blood count, tumor marker tests, electrophoresis and circulating tumor cells among others. In full blood count the amount of the different type of cells is tested. The number either fewer or more can be used to indicate the presence of cancer. Bone marrow biopsy has also been used in the diagnosis of bone cancer. Tumors produce certain chemicals known as tumor markers that when present in blood indicate presence of cancerous cells. Tumor markers include prostate-specific antigen an indicator for prostate cancer, human chorionic gonadotropin for either ovarian or testicular cancer, cancer antigen 125 for ovarian cancer, among others. Tests done to detect these chemicals is known as tumor marker tests. Electrophoresis aids in detecting abnormal immunoglobulin that is a common characteristic in people with multiple myeloma. Having the ability to spread to other places, scientists have developed blood tests to detect broken fragments of cancerous cells that might be floating in the blood stream. The test is known as circulating tumor cell test (Livingston-Wheeler, 1972).
Staging of cancer is the process of identifying the size of the cancer how far it has spread in the body and at times how similar it is to the normal cell on the first diagnosis. Staging is very essential as it enables one to know the size of the tumor, how fast the cancer has spread in the body and aid the treatment team to prescribe the best treatment. If it is small and only present in one part of the organ treatment such as surgery would be advised; this is to eliminate the cancerous tissue. In case cancer is spread throughout the body, systemic treatment would be advised. This is done to reach to all body parts since surgery can bot be done to all parts of the body; such treatment include; chemotherapy, biological therapy and hormone therapy. By doing this therapy, all body parts would be catered for since there will be circulation in the blood stream.
Doctors at times are not sure if the cancer has spread to other parts. Therefore they examine lymph nodes near cancer affected tissues. Presence of cells in the lymph will be an indicator that cancer is spreading; this can be explained as the original cancerous cells have been trapped in the lymph nodes. In such cases, adjuvant treatment is advised, which means an additional treatment to the primary treatment whose main purpose is to destroy all cancer cells that might have disintegrated from the original cancer cell (Lamb, 2003)
There are two systems used for staging cancer. The number system and the Tumor, Node, Metastasis (TNM) system. The systems help doctors to share results obtained from research and standardize the treatment. TNM system describes the size of the cancer, whether it has spread to the lymph nodes and whether it has spread to other body parts. In this system, numbers are used to describe the cancer.
T stands for tumor size. It is represented in an ascending order from one to indicate small up to four to indicate a large tumor.
N stands for lymph nodes. The letter is used to indicate if the cancer has spread to the lymph node. The level of spreading ranges from 0 to 3. When it is 0 it means no cancerous cells are present in the lymph node but when it indicates 3 it means many nodes contain the cancerous cells.
M stands for metastasis. This means the spread of cancer to other body parts. It is either numbered 0 or 1. When it is 0, it is an indication that there is no spread of cancer but when it is numbered 1 it means the cancerous cells have spread to other parts of the body.
For instance, T3 N1 M0 means that the cancerous cells are quite large in size, they are present in the lymph nodes but they have not spread to other parts of the body. In case, staging is done after having a laboratory examination and surgery has been done letter p is used before the staging system. Whenever staging is done before surgery and classification has been based on the doctor’s knowledge, letter c would be placed before the staging system.
The second system of staging is the numbering system. In this system; cancer has four stages indicated in roman numbers that is stage (i) to stage (iv). In stage I cancer is quite small and is only found in one organ. In stage II the tumor size is larger than in stage I and at times it might have spread to the lymph nodes. In stage III the cancer is large and might have started spreading to surrounding organs. In stage IV cancer has spread from the original location to another body organ.
Stage 0 also known as carcinoma in situ refers to the small number of abnormal cells present in a particular area in the body that cannot form tumors (Lamb, 2003).
Chemotherapy the most effective type of cancer treatment unlike other methods of treatment have side effects. This is because this treatment majorly acts on the active cells. Both cancer and healthy cells are active, in case the treatment acts harmfully on the healthy cells side effects will come. The common side effects are peripheral neuropathy where doctors administer painkillers for relief of the pain or administration of the drugs that blog nerves that transmit pain to the brain. Another side effect is mucositis which can only be prevented by hygiene of the mouth. A patient also experiences great exhaustion either mentally, physically or emotionally. Fatigue can only be avoided by great rest taken by the patient. The treatment of the side effects of cancer is also among the treatment of cancer nurses give palliative care to the patients. Depending on the types of cancer various complications can be seen (Livingston-Wheeler, 1972).
Lamb, K. (2003). Cancer . Austin: Raintree Steck-Vaughn
Livingston-Wheeler, V. (1972). Cancer: A new breakthrough . Los Angeles: Nash Pub.