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The diagnosis of cancer involves various tests. The history and the physical assessment of the patient count a lot in a successful cancer diagnosis procedure. Most of the tests are required to establish whether an individual has cancer. It is imperative to carry out various tests because there could be other infections with symptoms similar to. An effective cancer diagnosis test is applied to confirm whether the disease is present in the body. The process tracks the process of the disease after which plans for treatment can be applied effectively (Stanford Medicine, 2012). There are a number of occasions when a test can be repeated: 1) when the condition of the individual has changed; 2) when a sample collected did not meet the required quality or may be, 3) in an instance where a test that would be termed abnormal was realized and needs to be confirmed. Procedures of cancer diagnosis include imaging, laboratory tests (that includes tumor markers tests), biopsy of tumor, endoscopic assessment, surgery, or may be genetic testing.
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Laboratory tests involve chemical processes used to measure the amounts of chemical components in the body tissues and fluids. The most prevalent specimens used in clinical chemistry are urine and blood. Chemical components normally measured in blood are electrolytes, hormones, blood glucose, lipids/fats, enzymes, proteins and other metabolic substances. Thus, blood tests are utilized to check substance level in the blood. This helps in determining the health status of the body and the presence of infection. For instance, tests on blood showing high levels of waste products like blood urea nitrogen (BUN) or creatinine is indicative of in-efficient working of kidneys in filtering such substances. Other tests target the presence of electrolytes like potassium and sodium that are important to the healthy functioning of the body. Studies of coagulation establish the rate at which blood clots. A complete blood count (CBC) evaluates the number, size and maturity of the various blood cells in a particular blood volume. Red blood cells are crucial for transporting oxygen and fighting fatigue and anemia. The portion of hemoglobin of the CBC helps in telling the carrying capacity of oxygen of the red blood cells whereas the hematocrit evaluates the number of red blood cells present in the blood (Stanford Medicine, 2012). White blood cells essentially fight infection. Laboratory tests showing increased white blood cells could be a sign of infection.
A urinalysis test is used to break down the urine components to check the presence of protein, blood, drugs and other substances. Blood in urine could be occasioned by benign condition, although it can again be indicative of an infection or another problem. High protein levels in urine could indicate a cardiovascular or kidney problem. Tumor markers are those substances that are may be released through cancer cells into the blood tissue or urine or such substances that are created by the body as it responds to cells of cancer. Tumor markers are used to measure the way in which a patient can well respond to treatment and to monitor the recurrence of tumor. Tumor markers happen to be important while identifying potential issues, although they should be applied with other tests since: individuals with benign conditions could also show elevated levels of such substances in their blood stream; not every individual with a tumor could be with tumor markers; and some tumor markers are not explicit to any one kind of tumor (National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, 2010).
Staging of Cancer
The staging of cancer is used to establish the amount of cancer in the body and its location. It is a process of learning the stage of the cancer in an individual. Staging of cancer is useful in planning treatment and assists in predicting the outlook of the patient. Doctors collect various types of information concerning a cancer to evaluate the stage. Based on the location of the cancer, the physical examination could give some evidence as to the level of the cancer. Imaging tests like CT scans, X-rays, ultrasound, PET scans and MRIs could also offer information concerning the amount and location of cancer in the body. Normally, biopsy is required to authenticate cancer diagnosis. An abnormal spot on an imaging test indicates the spread of cancer. A biopsy includes removing tumors or tumor pieces and observing them under a microscope.
The common system used in the staging of cancer is the TNM system. Each cancer has been allocated a T, N, and M class. T class and category defines the primary tumor. The size of the tumor is normally evaluated in centimeters or millimeters. TX means that the tumor cannot be measured. T0 means that there is no primary tumor evidence. Tis means that the cells of cancer are merely growing on the tissue superficial layer (in situ cancer or pre-cancer). T (1- 4) defines the size and/or amount of invasion into adjacent structures. A high T number indicates a large tumor or the chance of growing into adjacent tissues (Stanford Medicine, 2012).
N category defines whether the cancer has spread into adjacent lymph nodes. NX indicates that the lymph nodes cannot be measured. N0 means that adjacent lymph nodes do not have cancer. N (1-4) defines the location, size and/or lymph nodes involved. A high N number is proof of many lymph nodes involved. M class tells the presence of distant metastases (cancer spread to other body parts). MX means the state cannot be evaluated. M0 means that the state is not present. M1 means that the state was found. Each type of cancer has its own type of classification system, thus numbers and letters do not always mean the same thing for all types of cancers (National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, 2010).
Complications of cancer
Based on the health and tumor stage of the patient, cancer complications can be inconvenient, painful, fatal and life changing. The most prevalent complications of cancer include fatigue, depression, sleep disorders, metastasis and pain. Depression is realized upon diagnosis and treatment. Depression interferes with the ability to undergo treatment. Support group therapy, psychotherapy and antidepressant medication can be used to address depression. Pain is a complication occasioned by the pressure of tumor on the adjacent nerve. Visceral pain comes from a damaged organ tissue; somatic pain affects a particular skin, bone or muscle region while neuropathic pain comes as a result of central nervous system injury. A doctor needs to identify the type of pain before administering treatment. Metastasis complication becomes evident with the extent of cancerous cells through the lymphatic system or blood from one region of the body to the next (Cancer Complications, 2012).
Side Effects of Treatment
Chemotherapy and radiation could cure cancer but they produce side effects that can largely impact on the quality of life of a patient. Radiation therapy used to treat internal tumors and on the skin causes hoarseness, irritated skin and throat pain. There could also be cases of damaged salivary glands and jawbone. Patients hence develop constant dry mouth, permanent habit of developing jaw pain and cavities. Chemotherapy could cause hair loss, weak immune system and nausea. Short-term complications however disappear on completing treatment.
Lessening physical and psychological effects
Pain can be reduced through such medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and opioids. These for example include morphine, codeine and oxycodone. For psychological effects, support group therapy, antidepressant medication and psychotherapy could be of great use in assisting the cancer patient who in most cases struggles with anxiety and depression (Cancer Complications, 2012). Such treatment procedures help in managing the moods of the patient and assist in making them lead somewhat normal lives. Additionally, these approaches help in treatment administration of the main cancer problem.