Understanding Cancer and Cancer Therapy
- cancer has afflicted humans throughout time
- it is observed in every geographic region and culture, in every
age, sex and race
Cancer begins as a single cell that goes awry
- a cancer cell has lost control over its growth
- two kinds of genes regulate growth
- oncogenes promote growth of cancer cells
- cancer suppressor genes (anti-oncogenes) suppress growth
of cancer cells
- when oncogenes are mutated by carcinogens, they induce
malignant growth by "turning on" cell division
- it is now thought that most cancers result from a combination
of genetic changes that cause both the absence of cancer-suppressor genes and the
presence of oncogenes
Known and suspected carcinogens include:
- chemical factors - including tobacco, industrial chemicals,
cancer chemotherapy agents
- physical factors - including ionizing radiation, ultraviolet
radiation, asbestos, pollution
- dietary factors - including high fat intake, alcohol, vitamin
deficiencies, low fiber diet
- cancer clusters within families are sometimes due to common
- it may also be due to genetic inheritance
- earlier age at diagnosis is common in genetically linked
- many cancer genes are being isolated and testing is being
developed for these genes
Cancer cells continue to multiply without restraint at the expense
of the host
- they compete for oxygen and nutrients
- they crowd out normal cells and prevent organ function
Cancer cells have the ability to spread to distant, nonadjacent
sites, known as metastasis
- usually spread through the lymph channels
- spread to vital organs and prevent them from functioning
Cancer therapy is aimed at ridding the body of tumor cells that
are in the process of multiplying
- surgery - primarily for patients with localized solid tumors
- radiation - the use of high energy radiation to treat disease
- considered a local therapy
- chemotherapy - used to treat cancer systemically
- over 50 drugs are available
- usually used in multi-drug combination regimens
- biotherapy - produce anti-tumor effects primarily through the
action of natural host
- these modalities are often used in various combinations, e.g.
chemotherapy + radiation
- cancer treatments have undergone tremendous change recently,
including new modalities, new drugs, high dose therapies and
- it is important to contact the health provider who is managing
the treatment with questions and concerns about the treatment and its
Groenwald, SL, Frogge, MH, Goodman, M, Yarbro, CH, Cancer Nursing:
Principles and Practice, 4th ed. Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1997.
Gross, J., Johnson, BL. Handbook of Oncology Nursing, 2nd ed.
Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1994.
McCorkle, R., Grant, M., Frank-Stromborg, M., Baird, S. Cancer
Nursing: A Comprehensive Textbook, 2nd ed. Philadelphia: WB Saunders
Varricchio, C. Ed. A Cancer Source Book for Nurses, 7th ed.
Atlanta: The American Cancer Society, 1997.
The following patient resources are available from the
National Cancer Institute for no charge (1-800-4CANCER):
- Chemotherapy and You: A guide for patients
- Radiation Therapy and You: A guide for patients
- What is Cancer?
Early Palliative Care in Lung CA Focuses on Coping, Symptoms
Jan 31, 2013 - Early palliative care clinic visits, integrated with standard oncologic care for patients with metastatic lung cancer, emphasize symptom management, coping, and psychosocial aspects of illness, according to research published online Jan. 28 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
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