Approach to Care of Cancer
Cancer refers to abnormal growth of cells within the body. Currently, several types of cancers exist, and they include but not limited to breast, cervical, prostate, esophagus and colon cancers. The prevalence rate of this condition across all age groups in the contemporary world is also another reason as to why there is a need for addressing the menace created by cancer. For instance, the situation is much worse in the USA where each year approximately 1 million new cases are diagnosed (American Cancer Society, 2016). With such a worrying statistic, it is clear that there is a need to understand cancer in its practical details. As such, the essence of this discussion, therefore, revolves around this issue. Thus, central to this paper comprise the diagnosis and staging of cancer, its complications, side effects of cancer treatment and measures that can lessen the physical and psychological effects associated with this condition. In light of these issues, it is indisputable that an individual will gain much-needed insight of this condition whose effects on the quality of life are not excusable.
Diagnosis and Staging
The diagnosis and staging of cancer are the two necessary and crucial steps of its management. Such is the case since they enable a health care professional to detect the existence and extent of cancer progression respectively. Early detection of the abnormal (cancerous) cells potentiates the halting of its progression to other parts of the body. A look at the various diagnostic procedures and staging of cancer is thus of the essence.
Diagnosis of Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute (2016), the diagnosis of cancer is possible through various procedures namely, a total patient’s history and physical examination, laboratory investigation, imaging techniques, and biopsy. A complete patient history may point out to the diagnosis of cancer if an individual has a positive family history that suggests his/her predisposition to the condition. The physical assessment will enable one to get a clue on the organ affected by the disease (National Cancer Institute, 2016).
The laboratory investigations are also crucial in the diagnosis of cancer as they reveal the level of some substances within the body that suggest the presence of cancer. However, laboratory investigations are not decisive in establishing the presence of cancer (National Cancer Institute, 2016).
Imaging procedures as diagnostic tests are vital for visualizing the location of the cancerous cells in the body. They are more decisive in making the cancer diagnosis, and they comprise tests such as computer tomography scan, nuclear scan, Ultrasonography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Positron Emission Tomography and X-ray (National Cancer Institute, 2016).
Finally, a biopsy is also a convincing way of diagnosing cancer. A biopsy can be either surgical or non-surgical. Surgical biopsy is also either excisional where one removes the entire tumor or incisional where one removes a small part of the tumor. Non-surgical biopsy utilizes a needle or an endoscope (National Cancer Institute, 2016).
National Cancer Institute, (2016) is of the opinion that the stage describes the extent of cancer, for example, the size of the tumor and spread of cancer. Staging of the cancer is essential since it enlightens an individual of the severity of cancer and the best treatment for the patient. There exist many types of cancer staging systems. Reminiscent to all staging systems is information on tumor location, cell type, the size of the tumor, lymph node involvement, metastasis, and the tumor grade.
A widely used staging system is the TNM system. Preference of this type of this system is due to its preciseness and its comprehensive nature. In this TNM staging system, one can establish the primary tumor’s size (T), the number of lymph nodes involved (N) and rate of cancer metastasis (M). Additionally, assignment of numbers is also a common characteristic in the TNM system. The numbers provide more details about the three components of the system (Tumor size, Lymph nodes involved and Metastasis) (National Cancer Institute, 2016).
Another more general way of staging the cancer is the one that entails five stages (Stage 0, 1, 2, 3,4). A stage 0 cancer is one that shows the presence of abnormal cells that have not spread to the nearby tissues. Stages 1, 2 and 3 means there is the existence of cancer and its presence in the nearby tissues. The higher the number, the more cancer has spread to the surrounding tissues and the larger the cancer tumor. Lastly, in stage 4, the cancer is severe since it has spread to distant parts of the body (National Cancer Institute, 2016).
Complications of Cancer
Cancer comes with a fair share of complications that are noteworthy if an understanding of this condition is desirable. Such effects are mainly due to the disease and the sometimes are secondary to the treatment modalities. A case in point of a complication associated with cancer is chronic pain. Pain is a common phenomenon among the cancer patients due to the release of inflammatory mediators in the body. As such, cancer patients are thus candidates of pain because of the inflammatory response of the body to the tumor (Bartels, & Freeland, 2009).
Secondly, weight loss is another complication that cancer patients are likely to face. Such is the case given that the illness results in depletion of food in the body cells. Consequently, this action deprives the healthy body cells the necessary nutrients. Additionally, the chemotherapy treatment leads to loss of appetite, which in turn results in little or no food consumption (Bartels, & Freeland, 2009). Clearly, from these changes the weight loss is inevitable since the patient’s body cells are not getting enough nutrients.
Moreover, recurrence of cancer is also a complication that cancer patients are no exception. That is the case given that some types of tumors despite their complete removal through surgical procedures they tend to recur after an indefinite timeframe (Bartels, & Freeland, 2009). As such, this complication makes these types of cancer hard to treat.
Another common complication of cancer is the metastasis to other organs of the body. The spread of cancer to distant parts of the body signifies the severest complication of the illness. Such is the case since it results in an increase in the severity of the cancer-associated symptoms. For instance, metastasis to the brain predisposes a patient to the risk of nausea and vomiting due to an effect on the emetic center in the brain (Bartels, & Freeland, 2009).
Side Effects of Cancer Treatment
Despite the prolonged life of cancer patients, cancer treatment modalities pose a significant challenge of side effects. The effects are very harsh on the patients as they increase the burden of physical and psychological effects caused by cancer. A befitting example of a side effect is fatigue associated with therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation. Fatigue is inevitable in such patients given that the treatments result in more exertion in the already energy deprived cells. The patients on chemotherapy and radiations are victims of this side effect which most of the time is distressing to the patient (American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2016).
Also, nausea and vomiting is another side effect that cancer patients on various treatment modalities face. A common therapy that results in this side effect is chemotherapy. Most chemotherapeutic agents are culprits of causing cancer. Nausea and vomiting come about due to the consequences of chemotherapy on two sites of the body. They include the brain and the esophagus, which are responsible for initiating vomiting reflexes (American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2016). Ultimately, the individual starts to experience nausea and vomiting soon after chemotherapy.
Another adverse effect associated with cancer treatment is infections. Infections are unavoidable in cancer patients given that chemotherapeutic agents have a significant impact on the body immune system by lowering its action through immunosuppression. Consequently, the individual becomes susceptible to infections since he/she has a weakened immune system that is unable to fight cancer and the diseases as well (American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2016). Evidently, with such impact on the immune system, the chemotherapy thus makes one vulnerable to infections.
Furthermore, anemia is a common side effect that cancer patients on chemotherapy treatment experience. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, (2016) anemia is due to the suppression of the bone marrow, which reduces the number of red blood cells produced. With such limitation of the bone marrow, the hemoglobin level decreases and causing anemia.
Psychologically, the cancer patients are subject to stress as a side effect of cancer treatment. Such is the case since the treatment modalities heighten their afflictions in the form of increasing the severity of distressing symptoms like nausea and vomiting. Coupled with the high costs of medications, the patients are no exception to the stress (American Cancer Society, 2016).
Strategies of Lessening Physical and Psychological Effects of Cancers
The physical and psychological effects of cancer on the patient are significant, and thus measures to reduce them are of the essence. A case in point of a strategy to reduce these effects is the use of antiemetic agents such as serotonin antagonists like dolasetron and antacids like ranitidine, which are effective in lowering the incidences of nausea and vomiting, associated with chemotherapy and radiation. Additionally, non-drug therapies such as self-hypnosis and music therapy are also beneficial as they distract the patient from imagining about the possibility to have nausea and vomiting episodes (American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2016). With such interventions, the patient is sure to have reduced episodes of nausea and vomiting.
Furthermore, various interventions are available for addressing a physical effect like fatigue. For example, having enough rest by taking breaks in between activities will lessen the fatigue experienced by an individual. Also, patients must seek help from others to accomplish demanding tasks so that they can preserve the little energy they possess. Moderate exercise is also vital in offsetting this challenge (American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2016). Eventually, with these measures a patient can overcome fatigue.
Physical side effects such as anemia and infections are also manageable through several strategies. For instance, one can manage anemia by treating its cause. Interventions such as taking iron-rich foods such as vegetables and liver and taking erythropoietin are all essential in reducing this side effect. On the other hand, one can overcome infections like prophylactic antibiotic therapy before and during chemotherapy. Also, growth factor drugs like colony stimulating factors may increase the production of neutrophils and thereby strengthen the immune system (American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2016).
Lastly, interventions of tackling the stress posed by cancer are available. A typical example of such measures is encouraging the patient to join support groups. In such forums, they speak out their worries and learn from others on how to cope with distressing symptoms that contribute to their stress. Besides, encouraging individuals to speak out their concerns with the cancer rehabilitation team will help reduce the stress (American Cancer Society, 2016). As such, the use of support groups and talking to cancer rehabilitation team help the individuals to get over the issue of stress.
In closure, indeed cancer management entails a lot that one must integrate to be sure of positive outcomes. Such issues include the diagnosis and staging of cancer, its complications, side effects of treatments, and methods of reducing these adverse events. Lack of comprehension of any of these components of cancer management poses a risk of ineffective management of patients. Thus, nurses must demonstrate an understanding of these aspects if they are to manage cancer effectively. Failure to do so will only but cause poor management of cancer patients and increased proportions of deaths.
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