Today, cancer is one of the most significant health problems. New technologies and medical practice in highly developed countries provide patients with the means of early diagnosing of cancer, innovative methods of treatment, and relatively favorable recovery rates. However, cancer is a disease that requires an integrated approach to its diagnostics. It is possible to put such a diagnosis only after the whole complex of studies. Specialists recommend regular screening for cancer. Therefore, early diagnosis of the disease and timely measures for its treatment are perhaps the only possible ways to help people get rid of this ailment.
Diagnosis of Cancer
Of all the methods of laboratory diagnosis of cancer, cytology has the highest specificity. With the help of this technique, it is possible to diagnose and determine the type of tumor reliably. The sensitivity of this method depends on the type of cancer and how well a body material is taken for research. For example, if cancer cells do not get into explored tissues, the test will give a negative result, although the tumor itself can develop.
A cytological examination is performed in case of tumors of almost any localization – skin, lungs, ovaries, uterus, lymph nodes, bone marrow, liver, and any subcutaneous formations (Wardle, Robb, Vernon, & Waller, 2015). As Newton (2016) remarks, it is possible to take smears-prints from the surface of the skin or mucous membranes, smears from the cervix, sputum, urine, and any other material. Puncture is performed to study the foci located under the surface of the skin; the substance is taken with a syringe. With the help of this method, a biomaterial from the thyroid gland, lymph nodes, bone marrow, liver sites, and any other formations can be taken (Newton, 2016). The results of the cytological examination are usually presented in a week after sample collection. There are cases when doctors research the received medications and compare them with the archive. The more accurate the study is, the more precise result a patient can get.
Also, quite effective methods of diagnosing cancer tumors are radiological and endoscopic diagnostics, ultrasound examination, as well as immunodiagnostics that is a modern and narrow-focused method. Font et al. (2016) claim that it is important to remember that all these techniques can be useful at the early stages of cancer development. If the disease is diagnosed at a later date, the risk of treatment is significantly reduced even if specialists use the modern ways of treatment.
Stages of Cancer
The specificity of cancer treatment directly depends on the stage of the disease. According to Miller et al. (2016), five main phases are distinguished. The zero stage includes tumors of any localization. The boundaries of cancer at this stage do not go beyond the epithelium that gave rise to the neoplasm. With timely diagnosis and adequate treatment, such disease is completely cured.
At the first stage, cancer spreads gradually, but it does not go far and, as a rule, does not affect distant organs. The only exception is gastric cancer that metastasizes into lymph nodes during the first phase (Miller et al., 2016). The prognosis for this stage is favorable, the patient can rely on healing, and the central thing, in this case, is early diagnostics and immediate measures to eliminate the tumor.
The second stage is distinguished not only by the progression of the process in the primary focus but also by the start of metastasis in lymph nodes. The prospects for this phase are connected with the type and location of the tumor. Timely diagnosing and proper treatment will help to cure a patient if all necessary measures are taken.
The third stage is characterized by further progression of the disease and the penetration of cancer into lymph nodes. Remote metastases at this phase are absent, which is an encouraging factor for prolonging the patient’s life. The survival in cancer at the third stage is also individual for each type of tumor. The locations, the degree of differentiation of the neoplasia, as well as the general condition of the patient, play a significant role.
During the fourth stage, a particular organ and lymph nodes are damaged, and metastases spread to distant organs (Miller et al., 2016). However, it should be noted that cancer can be diagnosed even in case of the absence of distant metastases at this phase. Rapidly growing primary tumors or small neoplasia that affect lymph nodes are also sometimes referred to the stage for of the disease. The treatment of cancer at this stage is almost impossible.
Complications of Cancer
Cancer is dangerous not only because of the infection of the body’s organs and tissues but also certain complications. For example, one of the frequent symptoms that occur in patients with such a disease is constant bleeding. The cause of it is vascular damage as a result of metastases.
Another complication that manifests itself quite often is weight loss. Patients with tumors quite often suffer from it, while they do not change their standard diet. As a rule, this complication is typical for late stages of cancer (Newton, 2016). Thus, a fast weight loss is a reason to consult a doctor.
Suppuration in the abdominal cavity is another common symptom that can manifest. Cancer patients feel pain and experience discomfort. Suppuration in the abdominal cavity is often confused with appendicitis. In this case, digestive system and organs that adjoin it are weakened.
Side Effects of Treatment
Chemotherapy is one of the fundamental methods of oncology treatment. Its mechanisms are different, but they all boil down to the same principle: appropriate drugs damage and destroy rapidly multiplying cancer cells. Wardle et al. (2015) note that since chemotherapy remedies are often injected intravenously, they spread throughout the body and attack not only tumor cells but also healthy actively dividing cells, in particular, in hair follicles, bone marrow, and mucous membranes of the mouth, digestive tract, and reproductive system. Also, some chemotherapy drugs can damage the cells of heart, kidneys, bladder, nervous system, and lungs (Quail & Joyce, 2013). Therefore, most side effects can occur.
At the same time, there is no reliable way to predict how the body will react to chemotherapy. In some patients, there are almost no side effects, while in others they are significantly pronounced. They include the loss of hair and teeth, skin pigmentation, digestive problems, nausea, and vomiting (Antoni, 2013). As a rule, oncologists try to ensure that the dose of chemotherapy is high enough to kill cancer cells but can cause the least amount of side effects.
Methods to Lessen Physical and Psychological Effects
The rehabilitation of patients who have experienced cancer has some peculiarities. In many ways, they are caused by the need to eliminate the side effects of treatment, as well as complications directly related to the health of the patient (Antoni, 2013). After all, surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy that are the most common methods of getting rid of cancer significantly traumatize the human body.
An appropriately selected rehabilitation course will allow the patient to return to a full life or at least improve his or her health after a debilitating illness. A particular program is developed individually, taking into account the patients’ condition, their functional capabilities, and motivation. Font et al. (2016) remark that such methods as physiotherapy, acupuncture, exercise therapy, etc., contribute to a marked recovery of motor activity and the elimination of the most common undesirable consequences of oncotherapy.
A significant role is played by psychological work with people who survived cancer: regardless of the results of treatment, they can feel depressed, lose interest in the former hobby or professional goals. The same problem occurs in patients who have undergone chemotherapy or radiation therapy and lost their hair. According to Antoni (2013), attempts to entrust the task of psychological rehabilitation of patients to their friends and relatives, as a rule, do not bring a significant result. People who are emotionally involved in the story of the disease are rarely capable of a realizing their optimal roles. Therefore, training with psychologists can be quite a satisfactory way that can help patients get rid of the consequences of cancer treatment, regain self-confidence, and begin to enjoy life.
Thus, early diagnosis of the disease and timely measures for its treatment may probably be the best way to prevent cancer. It is necessary to take into account the stages since the type of treatment directly depends on its disease. The consequences of therapy can be quite significant; nevertheless, working with psychologists, as well as physical recovery can help to get rid of the ailment forever.
Antoni, M. H. (2013). Psychosocial intervention effects on adaptation, disease course and biobehavioral processes in cancer. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 30, S88-S98.
Font, C., Fernández-Avilés, F., Calderon, C., García-Fernández, T., Arab, N., Pineda, E.,… Tuca, A. (2016). Home management of acute medical complications in cancer patients: A prospective pilot study. Supportive Care in Cancer, 24(5), 2129-2137.
Miller, K. D., Siegel, R. L., Lin, C. C., Mariotto, A. B., Kramer, J. L., Rowland, J. H.,… Jemal, A. (2016). Cancer treatment and survivorship statistics, 2016. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 66(4), 271-289.
Newton, H. B. (2016). Metabolic and nutritional nervous system dysfunction in cancer patients. In H. B. Newton & M. G. Malkin (Eds.), Neurological Complications of Systemic Cancer and Antineoplastic Therapy (pp. 120-132). New York, NY: Informa Healthcare.
Quail, D. F., & Joyce, J. A. (2013). Microenvironmental regulation of tumor progression and metastasis. Nature medicine, 19(11), 1423-1437.
Wardle, J., Robb, K., Vernon, S., & Waller, J. (2015). Screening for prevention and early diagnosis of cancer. American Psychologist, 70(2), 119-133.