Staying strong can be tough. As a caregiver, you probably have a constantly evolving set of questions you would like answered. Questions that will help you better understand the situation at hand, how it has treated and what you can expect along the way.
As one of your biggest supporters, Hope Cancer Care of Nevada offers you continued around-the-clock guidance, beginning right now. We have compiled a general overview to cancer, how it forms, treatments options and other important links that you may find helpful.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is an uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. It is important to remember that it is not one disease. There are multiple factors involved in causing cancer, such as genetics, lifestyle, and exposure to toxins.
PREVENTION AND SCREENING
Prevention and screening are the two most important factors responsible for decreasing cancer related deaths. Prevention includes adopting a healthy lifestyle such as being tobacco free, consuming moderate alcohol, reducing prolonged skin exposure to direct sunlight, maintaining regular exercise, eating a balanced meal, and avoiding over-consumption of red meat. Screening includes periodic testing according to established guidelines, such as mammogram, Pap smear, colonoscopy etc.
A number of blood tests and scans (such as CT, MRI, PET etc) can help aid in the diagnosis of cancer. However, in most cases a biopsy, which consists of removing a “small piece of the cancer tissue”, is required to characterize the exact type of cancer and the specific treatment for it.
There are two types of treatments: Local and Systemic. Local treatments such as surgery and radiation deal with a specific part of the body. Systemic treatments affect the entire body, and consist of chemotherapy and biologics (targeted drugs that find and kill the cancer cells only). A medical oncologist can coordinate all aspects of your cancer treatment and is an expert in administering chemotherapy and biologics.
Chemotherapy is the general term for treatments that use chemical agents to kill cancer cells. It is mostly given as a drip, but is sometimes also available in the form of a pill. Although cancer cells grow rapidly however once their DNA is damaged the ability to repair that damage is slower than the normal cells in the body. Chemotherapy takes advantage of this difference. Consequently between each dose healthy cells get a chance to repair themselves while cancer cells continue to die. Specific chemotherapies are designed to target different cancers. Chemotherapy is given to shrink and destroy visible tumors. It also eradicates “seeds” or micro metastasis. Micro metastasis is the spread of minuscule malignant cells from the cancers primary location, and are not visible on conventional scanning. Eradication of “seeds” is also called “adjuvant” treatment, and is the basis for offering chemotherapy after the removal of all visible cancer or tumors at the time of surgery.
Biologics are sometimes called “targeted” or “smart” drugs that find specific cancer cells while sparing normal tissue. These can target and destroy the tumor’s blood supply, in effect killing the cancer cell. These drugs, like chemotherapy, are also available as an IV or pill form. They can be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy to enhance the effect of treatment.