Cancer is often regarded as a terminal illness even though the modern methods have proved to be quite effective as the rate of survivors is constantly growing. Early detection and timely treatment tend to result in positive patient outcomes in many cases. Cancer is mainly referred to as the illness of the elderly, but people younger than 65 often develop the disorder these days. Even children and adolescents may be diagnosed with cancer, but the rate of these cases is 1% (Peate, Wild, & Nair, 2014).
The use of the latest technology and evidence-based practice are regarded as important but not exclusive components of effective care. Recent research shows that holistic and multidisciplinary approaches should be integrated effectively in treating cancer in order to attain the most favorable patient outcomes (Dangi-Garimella, 2016; Michael, O’Callaghan, Baird, Hiscock, & Clayton, 2014). This paper includes a brief analysis of this approach to care when treating cancer, as well as the description of the illness and its peculiarities.
Cancer Diagnosis and Staging
People often detect some symptoms during self-examination, which is specifically true with such types of cancers as breast or skin cancer. However, the illness is diagnosed with the help of screening and a thorough physical examination that includes blood tests, x-rays, and other procedures (Peate et al., 2014). Since approximately 200 types of cancer have been identified, the associated symptoms vary considerably depending on the organs affected. Cachexia and persistent pain are the symptoms present in all forms of cancer. All types of the disorder share another similarity as their development can be divided into four stages.
People may be diagnosed with stage 0 meaning that their bodies have abnormal cells that can develop into cancer. This stage is often referred to as carcinoma in situ (Peate et al., 2014). Stage 1 cancer is the health condition characterized by the presence of the illness (affected areas) small in size. This can be a small area of cancer cells in one area (an organ or tissue). People are diagnosed with stage 2 and 3 cancer when the illness has spread to other areas, tissues, and lymph nodes. Stage 4 cancer is also referred to as metastatic cancer. This stage is characterized by the spread of the illness to other organs of the body. The treatment of the disorder at this stage is often ineffective, and healthcare professionals can only address the symptoms and help the patient relieve pain.
Cancer Complications and Treatment Side Effects
Like the vast majority of diseases, cancer is associated with certain complications. Hypercalcemia is one of the most serious complications of cancer, and it considerably deteriorates the patient’s health (Peate et al., 2014). Hypercalcemia is characterized by such symptoms as pain in muscles and bones, digestive system malfunction, depression, fatigue, and other issues. Spinal cord compression is another serious complication of the illness in question.
Some of the most common symptoms of the spinal cord compression include pain in some parts of the spine, as well as legs and hands, numbness, poor hand coordination, and weakness in arms or legs. Cancer can also contribute to the development of the syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone (SIADH). SIADH is associated with such symptoms as confusion, seizures, or even coma and death. Apart from the discomfort associated with cancer symptoms and complications of the illness, patients have to endure side-effects of treatment. These include fatigue, appetite loss, diarrhea, hair loss, bleeding, swelling, delirium, constipation, anemia.
Methods to Lessen Physical and Psychological Effects
The adverse impact of the illness on patients’ health and their well-being is treated in different ways. Some symptoms are effectively managed with the help of medications and certain clinical procedures. The most common methods to treat cancer are chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, stem cell transplantation, hyperthermia, blood transfusion, and photodynamic therapy (Peate et al., 2014).
The choice of the treatment type depends on various factors including the stage of the illness, its comorbidity, patient’s health status, and some other. Mosher, Ott, Hanna, Jalal, and Champion (2014) note that professional assistance is mainly viewed positively and patients believe their treatment will lead to positive outcomes. Nevertheless, cancer is related to considerable psychological impact, so patients often need other types of treatment.
Alternative and complementary medicine tends to be a part of cancer patients’ agendas. These herbs, acupuncture, massage, the different types of physical activity help patients lessen various physical and psychological effects including but not confined to pain, stress, depression, and fatigue. Mosher et al. (2014) state that the support of family and close ones, as well as spiritual and religious support, have proved to be effective. However, the participation in some peer groups has been associated with less pronounced outcomes.
Holistic Approach to Care
The quick review of the peculiarities of cancer shows that affected people have to address numerous physical, psychological, and emotional constraints related to the illness and its treatment. It has been acknowledged that patients should receive a complex of diverse services, as well as support related to emotional and spiritual spheres (Mosher et al., 2014). However, Sun et al. (2015) argue that the modern healthcare system still lacks flexibility as healthcare professionals mainly focus on the physical state as well as some psychological issues of patients. Spiritual and emotional domains are often neglected due to the lack of time, medical staff overload or lack of skills.
The current research shows that a holistic or multidisciplinary approach can help healthcare professionals improve the quality of services they provide to cancer patients. Dangi-Garimella (2016) emphasizes that the care provided is highly fragmented so it is essential to bring together patients, their caregivers, PCPs, oncologists, nursing professionals, and radiologists. These should be key stakeholders collaborating in multidisciplinary teams. The holistic approach presupposes that care is not confined to a set of clinical procedures, but involves psychological and emotional support, training and empowerment, as well as advocating.
Alternative and complementary medicine can also be a part of the provided services, but the use of these strategies should be evidence-based. Patients and their close ones should be trained to improve their self-care skills and enhance their knowledge concerning various coping strategies and available resources. Patients should be empowered and encouraged to be active participants in this process.
Cancer patients should receive support coming from their family, close ones, professionals, spiritual leaders, as well as peers. The provided care will not be confined to the clinical setting but should be present on different levels. Public nursing professionals can play key roles in the process and ensure the effective integration of cancer patients into the life of the community.
This approach to care is gaining more popularity due to its effectiveness. Nevertheless, its effective adoption at different levels requires time. In order to incorporate this approach into the healthcare system, it is essential to obtain more details concerning the most favorable outcomes of interventions based on this method. Nursing professionals, as well as other healthcare practitioners, should advocate for the use of this perspective on care.
Furthermore, nursing research is instrumental in acquiring the necessary knowledge on the matter. Nursing schools’ curricula should also be improved as students should be trained to collaborate in multidisciplinary teams especially those including patients and their close ones. Finally, healthcare professionals should advocate for systemic changes and the introduction of new policies and regulations that would help in using the holistic approach to care in cancer treatment.
To sum up, it is necessary to state that cancer is still one of the most serious illnesses that often leads to a significant deterioration of people’s health and even death. Although people have developed various strategies to manage the illness, patients have to address considerable adverse effects of cancer. The use of the holistic approach to care can help in solving this issue. Healthcare professionals and patients, as well as their caregivers, should collaborate in multidisciplinary teams in order to help patients cope with their issues.
Although this method has already been utilized in many healthcare facilities, there is no clear guidance concerning the effective implementation of this method. Healthcare researchers and practitioners develop interventions based on the holistic approach, but these efforts are rather fragmented. The changes in the healthcare system are needed to ensure the effective use of the approach and achieving positive patient outcomes.
Dangi-Garimella, S. (2016). A holistic approach to cancer care: Focus on collaboration. The American Journal of Managed Care, 22(14), 508-514.
Michael, N., O’Callaghan, C., Baird, A., Hiscock, N., & Clayton, J. (2014). Cancer caregivers advocate a patient- and family-centered approach to advance care planning. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 47(6), 1064-1077. Web.
Mosher, C, E., Ott, M. A., Hanna, N., Jalal, S. I., & Champion, V. L. (2014). Coping with physical and psychological symptoms: A qualitative study of advanced lung cancer patients and their family caregivers. Supportive Care in Cancer, 23(7), 2053-2060. Web.
Peate, I., Wild, K., & Nair, M. (2014). Nursing practice: Knowledge and care. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Sun, V., Grant, M., Koczywas, M., Freeman, B., Zachariah, F., & Fujinami, R., … Ferrell, B. (2015). Effectiveness of an interdisciplinary palliative care intervention for family caregivers in lung cancer. Cancer, 121(20), 3737-3745. Web.