If you, or someone you love, have been diagnosed with cancer, you may not know what to do. Here's a list of tips and ways to cope with a cancer diagnosis.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is not a single disease. It is the general name for a group of more than 100 diseases in which cells in a part of the body begin to proliferate, or grow, wildly and invade other cells, which is something that normal cells are unable to do.
Cancer results from a process of altered cell differentiation and growth. The resulting tissue is called a neoplasia.
Neoplasm is also called a tumor, although the two are not exactly the same.
Tumor: A swelling that can be caused by a number of conditions, including trauma and inflammation. They are named by adding an -oma to the tissue type that the growth originated from.
Metastasis: Development of a secondary tumor in a location distant from the primary tumor.
The type of cancer is named by its point of origin.
The ability to cure cancer varies widely and depends upon the type of cancer and the extent of the disease when the cancer is diagnosed.
There are two types of neoplasms: benign and malignant.
Cell Characteristics: Well-differentiated cells that resemble cells from the origin of the tumor.
Mode of Growth: Grows through expansion, usually contained in a fibrous capsule, and does not invade surrounding tissues.
Rate of Growth: Slow, progressive growth rate.
Metastasis: Does not spread by metastasis.
General Effects: Because the tumor is localized, it does not cause generalized effects unless the location interferes with vital functions.
Ability to Cause Death: Typically does not involve death unless the location of the tumor interferes with vital functions.
Tissue Destruction: Typically does not cause tissue damage unless the location of the tumor obstructs blood flow.
Cell Characteristics: Cancerous cells are undifferentiated and often bear no resemblance to the tissue from which they originated.
Mode of Growth: Grows at the periphery and sends out processes that infiltrate and differentiate surrounding tissues.
Rate of Growth: Variable. The more atypical the cells, the more rapid the growth.
Metastasis: Accesses the blood and lymph systems and metastasizes to other parts of the body.
General Effects: Anemia, weight loss, and weakness.
Ability to Cause Death: Usually causes death unless tumor is controlled.
Tissue Destruction: Extensive tissue damage when the tumor outgrows its blood supply or cuts off blood supply to the area. May produce substances that cause cell death.
Categories of Cancer:
1) Solid Tumors - initially confined to a single organ or tissue. As the cancerous tumor spreads, cells from the initial mass travel through the blood and lymphatic systems to create metastasis in distant sites of the body.
2) Hematologic Cancers - involve the blood-forming cells. Hematologic Cancers naturally migrate to the blood and lymph systems, causing them to disseminate from the get-go.
Carcinogens and Causes of Cancer:
Because cancer is not a single disease, but a group of diseases, it is likely that cancer does not have a single cause. It is more likely that cancer occurs due to a complex interaction between multiple risk factors, or exposure to a carcinogen.
Oncogenesis: genetic mechanism that transforms normal cells into cancer cells.
Carcinogens: a cancer-causing agent.
Risk Factors For Developing Cancer:
Genetic Risk Factors: There is a hereditary predisposition to certain types of cancers, including breast cancer.
Environmental Risk Factors: The effects of carcinogenic agents are typically dose-dependent. The larger the dose/longer duration of exposure, the greater risk for developing cancer. Environmental Carcinogens include ionizing radiation, tobacco, tars, oils, certain foods, insecticides, fungicides, benzene, and other industrial agents.
Oncogenic Viruses: Some viruses, such as HPV (human papilomavirus) and T-Cell Leukemia Virus 1, are known to either cause cancer or to increase the risks of developing certain types of cancer.
Immunologic Defects: It has long been suspected that the development of cancer may be associated with an impairment of the immune system or a weakness in the immune system.
Diagnosis of Cancer:
The methods by which cancer is diagnosed and staged depend upon the location and type of cancer. Methods of diagnosis include: X-Rays, CT Scans, MRI's, bone marrow aspirations, ultrasounds, endoscopy, urine and stool tests, and blood tests for tumor markers.
Treatment For Cancer:
The goals for cancer treatment are composed of three things: curative, controlling, and palliative.
Cancer treatment is executed by an interdisciplinary team of specialists, which includes doctors, nurses, oncologists, pharmacists, and surgeons.
Types of Cancer Treatment:
1) Surgery is used for cancer diagnosis, staging of cancer, tumor removal, and palliative care (relieving symptoms).
2) Radiation Therapy can be used alone or in combination with other therapies to target and destroy tumors while causing less normal tissue damage.
3) Chemotherapy can be used alone or in combination with other cancer treatments.
4) Hormone Therapy involves administering hormones or hormone-blocking drugs on tumors dependent upon hormones for growth.
5) Biologic Response Modifiers (MRMs) are used in Biotherapy to change the person's own biological response to the tumor.
6) Bone Marrow and Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplants provide the cancer-killing effects while replenishing the stem cells of a patient.
7) Gene Therapy is the alteration of one's own genes to fight or prevent disease. May be very important in the future.
American Cancer Society: 1-800-227-2345
National Cancer Institute: 1-800-4CANCER
Related Resource Pages on Band Back Together
American Cancer Society - saves lives and creates a world with less cancer and more birthdays by helping people stay well, helping people get well, finding cures, and fighting back. Provides information on types of cancer, how to prevent cancer, and cancer treatment.
National Cancer Institute - coordinates the National Cancer Program, which conducts and supports research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer, rehabilitation from cancer, and the continuing care of cancer patients and the families of cancer patients. Website has links to clinical trials and a comprehensive list of cancer-treating drugs.
Stand Up To Cancer - a new initiative created to accelerate groundbreaking cancer research that will get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives. SU2C's goal is to bring together the best and the brightest in the cancer community, encouraging collaboration instead of competition. By galvanizing the entertainment industry, SU2C creates awareness and builds broad public support for this effort.
Relay For Life - the signature fundraising event of the American Cancer Society. The website gives links to information about how to get involved with the event locally.
Mesothelioma Prognosis – features information on the dangers of asbestos, mesothelioma, and where to find treatment facilities in your area. Patient advocates are also on hand to help get connected with doctor match programs.