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Cancer is always a scared term for a lot of people. Doctors might use a different set of medical words to describe what they found in the human body. They might use "tumor," "mass," "lesion," or more medically, "carcinoma," and "sarcoma." However, each of them has its meaning, and a patient might think, "Are they all talking about cancer?" To learn more about cancer with its diagnosis and treatment, reading this article will help you get some basic understanding of cancer.
Why does my doctor say "cancer"?
According to the definition of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), cancer is a disease of cells that have an abnormal life cycle and grow or spread into other tissue. In other words, the cells in the tissue lose their regulation and grow indefinitely. This process continues, and more and more cells present in the same area so that doctors can observe a mass on an imaging study. If the mass of abnormal cells keeps developing, it squeezes the healthy tissue around. Normal tissue loses its function, and it is called a space-occupying effect. However, these uncontrolled growing cells always gain the ability to spread to other parts of the body. The cell moving process triggered by cancer is called metastasis. Metastasis is a significant sign determining the follow-up treatment and the prognosis of a patient's cancer.
Definition of the terms related to cancern, adated from NCI ditionary:
- Tumor: An abnormal mass of tissue that results when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Tumors may be benign (not cancer), or malignant (cancer). Also called neoplasm.
- Mass: In medicine, a lump in the body. It may be caused by the abnormal growth of cells, a cyst, hormonal changes, or an immune reaction. A mass may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).
- Lesion: An area of abnormal tissue. A lesion may be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).
- Carcinoma: Cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs.
- Sarcoma: A type of cancer that begins in bone or in the soft tissues of the body, including cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, fibrous tissue, or other connective or supportive tissue.
How do doctors diagnose cancer?
A diagnosis of cancer or carcinoma generally required a biopsy. Imaging studies help detect where a tumor is in the body and usually followed by a biopsy. A biopsy is a medical procedure to identify what kind of cells are in a mass. Doctors will perform a procedure to take some of the cells from the tumor out of the body. The biopsy result will help confirm the origins of the cells. As mentioned above, healthy cells are uniform and organized under a microscope; in contrast, due to their rapidly growing, cancer cells lose their order and vary in sizes. Some of the cancer cells are even not able to identify their origin.
The most important part: What I can do if I have cancer?
Once you are confirmed cancer, your doctor will discuss the most appropriate treatment with you based on the cancer presentation.
Different goals of cancer treatment are set to promote the health of cancer treatment:
- Cure: Achieve cure of your cancer, which allowing you to live an average life span, This may or may not possibly depend on your specific situation.
- Primary treatment: Entirely remove the cancer mass from the body or kill the cancer cells with various modalities.
- Adjunctive treatment: The goal is to kill the remain cells to leave in the body after the primary treatment to reduce the chance of cancer recurring.
- Palliative treatment: This kind of treatment is to relieve the adverse effect of other therapies or symptoms caused by cancer cells itself.
Tools come to manage cancer cells grow:
- Surgery: Surgery is to remove the tumor or as much of cancer from the body if the cancer is accessible
- Chemotherapy: Pharmaceutical agents to eliminate cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy: High Powdered Energy usually beams from outside of the body to kill cancer cells. It can also be placed in your body.
- Immunotherapy: Activate your body's immune system to fight cancer. This therapy helps your immune system target cancer and attack it.
- Hormone therapy: The body's hormones stimulate some of the cancer cells growing. Removing the hormones might block their effect and lead to cancer cells stop growing.
- Clinical trials: These studies are designed to investigate new methods to treat cancer. Multiple clinical trials usually are available for cancer patients to participate.
- Alternative medicine: Even though no alternative cancer treatments are recognized to cure cancer, these are options to help you modulate the side effects of cancer and cancer treatments discussed above. Common side effects cancer patients experiencing are body pain, fatigue, weight loss, nausea, and vomiting. Treatments found to be helpful are acupuncture, massage, meditation, relaxation techniques.
How can my doctor help me?
Diagnosing cancer would be a difficult time for both the patient and the family. As naturopathic physicians, we are always willing to spend our time to listen to your story and help you through this difficult time. Naturopathic physicians are trained to apply different interventions based on the therapeutic order. We always begin by using the lowest force intervention and help you establish the foundations of health. We want to help you understand the diagnosis, interpret your test results, look for your best treatment, and cope with the side effects of any medication.
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