January 25, 2014
Cancer is a disease with no regard for age, gender, or ethnicity. In 2013 nearly 1,600 people a day died from cancer; and “cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the US” (ACS, 2013). There are twenty three cancer types currently identified. However, many people still do not understand what a diagnosis of cancer means, how cancer progresses, or the common complications with cancer. All valuable information that must be addressed before choosing a treatment option, discussing treatment side effects, and identifying the support systems a person will need while receiving treatment.
Despite advances in treatment and care the public continues to have a great deal of anxiety and fear when diagnosed with cancer. Partially because people do not understand what having cancer means. Every living organism is made up of cells. These cells divide at a controlled rate with a specific function and multiply to replace damaged cells. While cancer cells grow and multiply with no control, destroying healthy cells in its’ path, and ultimately invading parts of the body inhibiting its’ function. Biologists have labeled cancer cells as any invading cell that can control proliferation and differentiation. Proliferation is the lifecycle of normal cells, to include regeneration of new cells as cells die. One of the phenomenon’s of normal proliferation is that the cells remain in their territory and do not inhibit cellular growth to surrounding cell membranes (Lewis, 2007). Differentiation is when a stem cell is coded to perform a specific function and under normal conditions these cells are unable to change their function. However, cancer is able to alter these naturally occurring processes. Cancer begins are a mutation in replicating DNA, either by genetics or a chemical, radiation, or viral exposure. The mutated DNA then starts proliferation and develop mutated cells; however, these cells do not stay within the boundaries of its originating cellular territory like healthy cells. At this stage the cancer cells have not interrupted normal bodily functions and there are no clinical indications of cancer. However, as the cancer progresses it can form tumors, invade tissues and organs, and eventually travels to other organs in the body.
With a greater understanding of what cancer is, when do clinical indications and a diagnosis of cancer occur? As any disease spreads through the body it is known as staging, as a disease spreads it rises in stage; thus the higher the number the greater amount of cancer invading a person. Cancer has five stages and staging is accomplished during the diagnostic workup phase which enables physicians to provide the appropriate treatment plan. Diagnostic tools used to stage cancer include blood work, MRI, CT scan, PET scan, ultrasound, and biopsy of the affected cells. Stage zero is known as cancer in situ, this is when the cancer is still new and remains in the originating tissue. Stage one indicates a tumor has developed, but it is localized in the original tissue, has not affected the lymph nodes, and has not spread to any surrounding tissues. Stages zero and one have the best treatment outcomes (ASCO, 2013). Stage two indicates the cancer tumor is larger, the cells have spread to the surrounding tissues to include the lymph nodes. Stage three is very similar to stage two, however, the size of the tumor and invasion of surrounding tissues is much larger. While stage four occurs when the cancer has spread to multiple areas of the body and is considered advanced or metastatic cancer. When cancer has metastasized it means the cancer has traveled to another organ of the body it does not neighbor, such as from the colon to the liver or the pancreas to the brain.
As cancer spreads it affects multiple body systems, this along with treatment can cause several complications. The most...
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Mayo Clinic. 2014. Cancer Complications. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-
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