Cancer implies the abnormal growth of cells which subsequently divide in an uncontrolled manner. There are numerous kinds of cancer with varying symptoms. Most cancers occur due to genetic changes that a person undergoes during their lifetime even though some rare cancers are attributed to faulty genes that are passed on from parents. The essay will focus on the approach to care for cancer patients by outlining its diagnosis, stages, complications, side effects from treatment, and techniques that can reduce any effects.

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Diagnosis and Staging

The diagnosis of cancer focuses on the examination of affected tissue under a microscope. According to Nee (2013), if a person who experiences warning signs for the disease or the screening results point towards its presence, a doctor usually performs a biopsy. It is the surgical removal of a tiny piece of tissue for examination under a microscope, which is critical in establishing whether a tumor is present or not. Besides, it tells the doctor whether a tumor is malignant or benign, which implies whether it is cancerous or not.

A doctor can take a biopsy in three ways; endoscopy, surgical biopsy, and needle biopsy. Cho (2013) states that an endoscopy utilizes a thin lighted tube to examine areas inside a person’s body, take pictures, determine what is happening, and remove tissue or cells for the test. A needle biopsy is done using a needle which is inserted into a suspicious area to take a tissue sample. Lastly, a surgical biopsy may take either an excisional biopsy through the removal of a whole tumor and surrounding tissue while an incisional biopsy where a doctor removes only a part of a tumor. Ordinarily, if a doctor determines the presence of cancer, a whole tumor is removed urgently or during a subsequent operation.

After biopsy and cancer diagnosis, a doctor should establish the aggressiveness of the disease or how fast it is growing. According to Smith, Eriksen, and Bor (2015), it involves the examination of a tumor under the microscope to determine whether the tumor cells are similar or different from one another. These tumors may be well differentiated, poorly differentiated, or undifferentiated if some tumor cells are very similar to the surrounding normal tissue, slightly resemble the surrounding normal tissue, or do not resemble any tissue respectively. Ordinarily, poorly differentiated and undifferentiated tumors are more aggressive and tend to spread earlier, grow faster, and have poorer outcomes.

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Having diagnosed the disease, a doctor should determine its stage or the extent of the cancer. Nee (2013) states that the staging process is important in determining how the disease has spread in a person’s body to make a decision about the subsequent treatment. There are four stages of cancer: in situ, local, regional, and distant. An in situ stage refers to early cancer that has not spread to the surrounding normal tissue; local stage is found entirely in an organ where it started; regional stage is where the cancer is spreading to the surrounding lymph nodes or tissue; finally, distant stage is when it has spread to other body systems and organs.

Overall, staging is critical in making good diagnoses as in the early stages cancer has a good prognosis for full cure or control. According to Johnson, Maehara, Browman, Margenthaler, and Audision (2013), cancer that has begun to spread is characterized by the way and level of spread through direct extension, extension to lymph nodes, and distant metastasis. Though different kinds of cancer progress in different ways, the stages can be classified in four different ways: stage 1 that is limited to the originating organ, stage 2 that spreads to surrounding tissue or lymph nodes, stage 3 that has extensive growth of the original tumor and other organs, and stage 4 in which the disease spreads into other organs and body systems.


Cancer patients experience different kinds of complications based on their health and the stage of a tumor. Cho (2013) states that the different therapies and remedies that they undergo focus on the reduction of the complications and their emotional and physical consequences. Some of the complications include spinal cord compression, breathlessness, and fatigue.

Fatigue refers to a poor capacity to sustain the production of power or force resulting in reduced energy, muscular weakness, and endurance. Smith, Eriksen, and Bor (2015) claim that reduced capacity to conduct mental activities over time is characterized by poor memory and concentration, daytime dizziness, and a decreased interest in normal activities. Overall, the fatigue in a cancer patient is a subjective experience of exhaustion. It occurs in non-malignant and malignant conditions, which mainly develop due to tumor necrosis factor resulting from a variation in skeletal muscle protein stores and the discharge of metabolites and intracellular products due to tumor necrosis and cell lysis due to therapy.

Breathlessness or dyspnea is generally the obstruction of large or small airways. According to Nee (2013), it often leads to difficult breathing but is not limited to physical terms only. Apart from the physical asthmatic qualities, it also manifests through sensation in the upper airway, low energy levels, as well as emotional and affective expressions such as anxiety and fear.

From 5 to 10 percent of cancer patients experience spinal cord compression. According to Nee (2013), the complication often is manifested in various symptoms, which occur before neurological impairment such as fatigue, pain, sensory disturbance, and change in gait. A doctor who suspects the complication should refer a patient for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Subsequently, it can be managed by radiation therapy, medication, and sometimes surgery.

Side Effects

The side effects of cancer treatment vary in patients and depend on the type of treatment. Johnson, Maehara, Browman, Margenthaler, and Audision (2013) state that a person may experience one or few side effects, or just mild ones. It is impossible to determine beforehand what side effects a certain drug will cause in an individual, its severity, or when it will begin or stop. Some of the most common side effects include hair loss, fatigue, anemia, and gastrointestinal issues such as nausea. Some patients may develop late side effects, which occur a long time after finishing treatment. Overall, they occur because of the medication’s interference with hormone levels, nerves, mental capacity, and physical processes.

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Physical and Psychological Effects

Cancer and its treatment often affect a person physically regarding the quality of his/her life in different ways. According to Cho (2013), physical effects include exhaustion and a lack of energy to carry out daily activities. Besides, cancer patients also experience changes in appetite, which often causes distress due to eating more or less than usual. Treatment options such as chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy may lead to permanent or temporary changes in a patient’s body. Such changes often affect a person’s confidence, self-esteem, and self-consciousness.

The diagnosis, treatment, or the fear of recurrence of cancer may lead to psychological distress. Nee (2013) notes that some of the emotional problems which may occur in persons dealing with cancer include shock, fear, guilt, depression, anger, and anxiety. Consequently, it is important to incorporate psychological care in the overall treatment to ensure that a person is more relaxed and in control of their emotional well-being.

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Cancer encompasses the abnormal growth of body cells. The various kinds of cancer have different symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, fatigue, and spinal cord compression. The treatment of the disease often leads to psychological and physical side effects, which should be managed in the course of overall treatment of the disease.


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