cancer diagnosis

Cancer is a dreaded word, that most prefer to block from their mental radar, often even when they exhibit distinct signs of it. Yet, the fact remains that whether you or your loved one fears having cancer, it is a treatable illness. There is a whole generation of medical science in the flanks of every cancer treatment, who bring their experience and expertise in locating the dangerously dividing cancerous cells, destroying them, and helping you to recover.

To this end, there is a range of tools and processes that aid medical management of cancer, from diagnosis, to prognosis, and treatment.

We will help you deconstruct the various options in each phase of cancer diagnosis and treatment. The more knowledge you have about cancer therapy, the more informed your choices of recovery are!

The methods of curing cancer will of course depend on the type of cancer one has, the location, the size or spread of it and more. Typically, an oncologist (doctor who specialises in cancer) will follow the steps below:

  1. Diagnose the patient as to whether it actually is malignant or benign

  2. Decide upon the prognosis of the disease in the patient, based upon which stage of cancer it is in

  3. Decide the type of treatment depending on the above prognosis and the patient’s choices

Cancer Symptoms Diagnosis – Your Options

You may have decided on getting a diagnosis done as part of a routine medical examination, or on finding a mass, or on chronic unease, persistent fever and fatigue. Either way, how early you come in for diagnosis can make all the difference to chances for survival and cure.

Various diagnostic tools are used to decide whether the tumour is malignant:

  1. Cytology:  Using a microscope in body tissue scrapings or in fluids aspirated by a needle to find cancerous cells.

  2. Needle Biopsy: During a biopsy a doctor removes a sample of tissue from the diseased area and sends it to a lab for testing for cancer cells.  

  3. Endoscopic Biopsy: To diagnose cancer of deep internal organs like oesophagus, stomach, intestines, thoracic and abdominal cavities using a flexible thin tube.

  4. Surgical Biopsy: In certain cases when diagnosis is difficult, surgical biopsy Is used by making an incision into the area of suspicious cells.

  5. Blood And Bone Marrow Examination: In cases where leukemia is suspected, a blood and bone marrow examination is essential.

  6. X-ray: X-rays are used to diagnose cancers of the bone and such. Sometimes special X-rays like Barium X-rays and angiograms are used.

  7. Ultrasound Scanning: Tumours in the abdomen, liver, and kidneys can often be seen with an ultrasound.

  8. MRI Scanning: Soft tissues like the heart, brain, liver, pancreas, and male and female reproductive organs are often examined with an MRI. Depending on the site of cancer, CT scanning and scanning by radioisotopes are also used.

Prognosis of Cancer And Its Stage

If cancer is confirmed in the diagnosis, then the next thing the oncologist will do is to determine the stage of the illness. A cancer can be localised, that is confined to a particular area, or advanced and spread to more than one site. The staging of cancer depends on methods like the TNM system:

  1. Extent of the tumour (T)

  2. Extent of spread to the lymph nodes (N)

  3. Presence of distant metastasis (M)

A number is added to each letter to indicate the size of tumour or spread of the cancer.

Methods of Curing Cancer – Treatment Options

Cancer is a curable, treatable disease, if detected early. New frontiers in medicine are being broken everyday, bringing to our disposal a vast array of research, drugs, treatment methods that can set a man or woman with cancer on the path to definitive recovery and remission.

The treatment method one opts for would depend on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the patient’s health and age. The primary treatment options are listed here.

1. Surgery

The oncology surgeon will remove the tumour and surrounding tissue by operating on the affected area. Some cancers can be completely removed with surgery, especially if it is at an early stage. The advantage of surgery is that it does not damage nearby cells and organs.

Surgery can be preventive in removing a suspected malignant mass, or curative in removing a tumour that is malignant and growing.

2. Chemotherapy

Medical oncologists are the ones who use chemotherapy to treat cancer using drugs to destroy or inhibit rapidly dividing cancerous cells. This consists of a mix of cancer treating drugs that are delivered through the bloodstream.

Chemo is typically used when the cancer cells have spread to multiple locations and surgery is not an option, like in leukaemia. It is utilised to destroy cancer cells through the body, or shrink tumours.

They are delivered through various methods:

  1. Intravenous (IV) - Through a vein

  2. Intra-arterial (IA) - Directly into the artery around the affected area

  3. Intraperitoneal (IP) - Directly into the peritoneal area that contains organs such as your intestines, stomach, liver, and ovaries

  4. Topically - As a cream that apply to your skin

  5. Orally - In the form of pills, capsules, or liquids that you swallow

3. Radiation

Radiation oncologists use high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells in a particular area to stop them from spreading. The types of radiation are X-rays, gamma rays, and charged particles. High doses of radiation work by damaging the DNA of the cancer cells and stopping their division. These dead cells are then eliminated naturally from the body.

However, radiation is not effective on a tumour that has spread or in leukaemia. Radiation therapy can be externally directed or put inside the body.

4. Targeted Therapy

In this form of treatment, oncologists use drugs or other substances that directly interfere with specific molecules involved in the growth of cancer cells.

This affects the molecular structure of the cancer cells and thus have more impact. They can also be less harmful to neighbouring cells.

5. Hormone / Endocrine Therapy

In this method oncologists add, block, or remove hormones depending on the case. Synthetic hormones are used to block the body’s natural hormones that encourage the growth of breast cancer. The gland that produces the damaging hormone may also be removed through surgery.

6. Stem Cell Transplant / Bone Marrow Transplant

A stem cell transplant is a treatment for some types of cancer. it treats Leukemia, multiple myeloma, some types of lymphoma and some blood diseases.

In this method of treatment, diseased bone marrow is replaced with highly healthy stem cells that develop into healthy bone marrow. It is used for cancers like leukaemia, multiple myeloma, and some blood diseases.

7. Immunotherapy

A type of vaccine is introduced into the body to stimulate the patient’s own immune system to attack cancer cells.

8. Palliative Care

Patients in advanced stages of cancer require relief from the intense pain and side effects of cancer treatment. The terminally ill patients and their caregivers are given special care to help raise the quality of their life through cancer therapy.

In consultation with your doctors, you can decide upon a course that is best for you and will aid you in your recovery from cancer. Keeping in mind, a positive mindset is the best therapy of all.