Table of Contents
Describe the diagnosis and staging of cancer
The diagnosis and staging period is essential in establishing the type and spread of cancer in a patient. It guides the physician in determining the treatment best suited for the patient (Brown &Shoup, 2009). The diagnosis of cancer commences with a series of tests that include screening, blood test or other physical exams. In most cases, a physician conducts the tests based on the patient’s symptoms. If such tests give results that are suggestive of cancer, then, the doctor conducts a further prognosis. The prognosis could entail a biopsy or endoscopy. The procedures are conducted to investigate the spread and type of cancer. A biopsy is ether a surgical biopsy or a needle biopsy (Kantor & Suzan, 2016). In a surgical biopsy, the doctor performs a surgery in which he extracts the tumour and its surrounding or a small portion of the tumour. The extracted tumour is further examined to gather information on the patient’s type of cancer. A needle biopsy obtains a sample by inserting a needle in the tumour and extracting some cells for examination (Kantor & Suzan, 2016). An endoscopy, on the other hand, is less invasive. In summary, the diagnosis establishes the malignancy, type (sarcoma for instance), and aggressiveness of the tumour (Brown &Shoup, 2009).
The staging process focuses on establishing the spread of the cancer and determining the best treatment for the patient. It also ensures that the patient grasps the condition and situation. The staging process can follow the numbered system or the TNM system. The numbered system identifies the cancer spread through four numbered stages (Mitchell, 2010).
- Stage 0 Cancer: the cancer cells mainly affect the single and initial organ.
- Stage 1 cancer: the cancer is still small and has only affected surrounding tissues.
- Stage 2 and 3: the tumour is larger and the surrounding tissues and lymph nodes are affected.
- Stage 4 Cancer: An advance or metastatic cancer level where other body parts are infected.
In the TNM system, each letter gets a value used to determine the overall spread of the cancer. The values attached to T, tumour, (for instance, T1, T2, T3 or T4) mainly describe the tumour and its size (Kantor & Suzan, 2016). The value attached to N (lymph nodes) refers to the amount of lymph nodes affected by the cancer. The value attached on M (metastasis) indicates whether or not the cancer has advanced to other body parts.
Complications of Cancer
Kidney failure is a cancer complication especially in cervical cancer patients. The cancerous tumour in advanced cervical cancer may cause pressure on the ureters. If the ureters are blocked, the flow of urine form the kidneys stop. The result of this is hydronephrosis (Mitchell, 2010). Hydronephrosis is the accumulation of urine in the kidneys which results in stretched and swollen kidneys. If left untreated the patient may lose some or all kidney function. It may be resolved by percutaneous nephrostomy which involves inserting tubes through the skin to drain the kidneys (Kantor & Suzan, 2016).
Cancer increases the chances of blood clotting because it makes blood thick and sticky. Furthermore, a large tumour pressing against a vein can also increase the possibility of developing a tumour. Chemotherapy and surgery treatments make this risk even higher (Kantor & Suzan, 2016). The physician can prescribe blood thinning medication to manage any blood clots.
Fistula is a complication that can develop in cancer patients battling cervical cancer. If a fistula develops between the vagina and the rectum, a surgery must be carried out to rectify the situation (Kantor & Suzan, 2016). The incidences of fistula among advanced cervical cancer patients are approximately one in fifty cases.
Treatment Side Effects and Solutions
Hair loss is the most common and evident side effect of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy results in the loss or thinning of all hair body while radiotherapy affects the area of treatment. Different hormonal therapies may also cause hair loss. One of the major ways to cope with hair loss is to shave the hair and invest in a hair wig (Kantor & Suzan, 2016).
Lessened count of white blood cells
The number of white blood cells is often affected by targeted therapies and chemotherapy. The patient’s susceptibility to infection increases due to low white blood cell count (Mitchell, 2010). Antibiotics for an infection treatment should be prescribed to the patient.
Fatigue is another side effect of cancer treatment. Fatigue lasts for as long as the treatment lasts and sometimes longer. Preparing the patient about the side effect is essential. The doctor should advice the patient to get the right support system as he or she begins treatment.
Approach to Care of Cancer
The incidence and prevalence of cancer has increased in the 21st century. As stakeholders of the healthcare system, cancer victims, survivors and the general public continue to understand the disease, the approach to care continues to evolve (Mitchell, 2010). Cancer patients have many needs that need to be met, that is, physical needs, emotional and psychological needs, spiritual needs, financial and emotional needs and practical support need. Therefore, the healthcare system must change and evolve to meet these needs. The care provided for cancer patients must move from a disease centred approach to a holistic patient centred approach. The main objective of a holistic patient centred approach is to improve the patient’s quality of life. This approach mainly entails palliative care. Palliative care for cancer patients combines the treatment for cancer with symptom relief care.
One of the major factors in providing palliative care is providing multidisciplinary care or team care. The cancer patient receives or assembles a team that consists of doctors, oncologists, radiologists, specialised nurse, therapist and other required medical specialist (Kantor & Suzan, 2016). Consequently, the team can work together to treat the patient, manage the symptoms, treat the side effects, help the patient manage stress and address any concerns during care. The coordination facilitates faster treatment, easier access to credible and personalised healthcare information and overall improved access to treatment.
The care approach requires the involved stakeholders to have adequate communication skills. For instance, although a therapist is part of the team, the nurse probably has most contact with the patient during treatment sessions. Therefore, the nurse must take initiative to understand the patient’s history, emotional state, physical needs and psychological state. The approach is incomplete without the support from family members. Family therapy sessions are recommended. If the patient is estranged from family, the nurse, therapist or religious leader should encourage the patient to reconcile with his or her family (Mitchell, 2010).
The holistic approach to cancer care has been adapted in the Australian healthcare system. Based on the positive results, other healthcare systems should incorporate the approach in caring for cancer patients. Cancer should not result in declined quality of life for a patient (Brown & Shoup, 2009). The holistic approach makes consideration to such things as appropriate nutrition, detoxification of the patient’s body, natural chemotherapies, having a positive attitude as well as spiritual cleansing and a total change of their lifestyle. These enable the patient to be able to have a quality lifestyle in the treatment process. It also enables such a patient to be built a robust defence mechanism for their body to facilitate their natural healing process (Brown & Shoup, 2009). As much as cancer remains a severe condition, the care can be improved through a holistic approach as well. This is because; sometimes-conventional treatments such as chemotherapy weaken the body and can be quite severe. In addition, sometimes the condition does not improve because the underlying causes for such type of cancer in the body of the patient have not been fully established. It is for this reason that it is advisable that the stressors of the patient’s body should be established first so that the treatment is effective (Brown & Shoup, 2009). For instance, a patient’s body may be heavy loaded with toxic metals that need cleansing. The body may also be deficient of certain nutrients making it cancer resistant. Knowledge of what the blood toxins may enable the therapists be able to administer appropriate cure that will first deal with the underlying problem that may worsen or derail the healing process.
- Brown, K. M., & Shoup, M. (2009). Multidisciplinary approach to cancer care. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders.
- Kantor, D., & In Suzan, Z. (2016). Issues of cancer survivorship: An interdisciplinary team approach to care. Philadelphia :Wolters Kluwer.
- Mitchell, G. (2010). Palliative care: A patient-centered approach. Oxford: Radcliffe.