Cancer and its Treatments

Psych of Aging

Cancer is a major killer of people all around the globe. We do not have a definite cure, but the amount of research done on this one disease costs on the average of $1.2 billion dollars annually, and $20 billion annually in care of
cancer patients.

What is Cancer?

Cancer is a broad ranging term that is used by many people, including medical professionals such as doctors. Cancer, in its most fatal and aggressive form, is of a larger class of diseases known as neoplasms. There are two forms of a neoplasm: benign or malignant. A benign neoplasm is encapsulated, or surrounded, so that it\'s growth is restricted, whereas a malignant neoplasm is not closed in. Malignant tumors grow much more quickly than benign forms and spread into the
surrounding normal tissue, and virtually destroy it. (Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia, Cancer).

The question is, what exactly is cancer? Cancer, is the break down and mutation of the cells of the body, when the DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) sequences in those molecules are disrupted and errors form in the structures, (Grolier, Genetic Code). This mutation spreads through surrounding tissue until it disrupts major systems in the body (such as respiratory, digestive and waste management) cause that system to fail.

Cancer does not jump out of the woodwork in a day; in most cases, it takes a long time for cancer to become detectable, depending on the type, and where it is growing. It has shown that cancer detected in the earliest stages of its growth is far easier to stop, and so the American Cancer Society has begun to promote public awareness of the seven warning signs to look for:

(1) a change in bowel or bladder function;
(2) a sore that does not heal;
(3) unusual bleeding or discharge;
(4) a thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere;
(5) indigestion or difficulty in swallowing;
(6) an obvious change in a wart or a mole; and,
(7) a nagging cough or hoarseness.

Should anyone exhibit any of these symptoms, they should see a physician immediately. (Groiler, Cancer) Treatment of cancer seems to be more of an art than a science at the moment. Especially in the areas of surgery, radiation treatment, chemotherapy and other areas.

Surgical removal of a cancer from the body is the oldest and sometimes most effective means of disrupting and stopping cancer growth. Surgery can be used to remove malignant or benign tumors within the body, although the practice of removing benign tumors is not practiced due to the possibility of making it active. Removal of complete malignant tumors is often successful in halting cancer growth in that particular region, when followed by radiation therapy. It is also possible to remove parts of tumors, to reduce the amount of cancerous tissue in the body as a whole. The one major drawback to surgery is that quite often a tumor is not accessible to a surgeon, or it may be attached to a major organ of the body, in which removing the tumor may cause serious side affects and even death. So long as a cancerous tumor has not spread to a major organ or tissue, the removal will be a safe and will be successful in most cases.

Surgical removal of a cancerous tumor may give people the extra months or years to carry out things they want to do, especially for those people who can not be totally free of cancerous tissue. Surgery to remove a tumor may give people the comfort in which to live out their lives, even though it may not be the complete solution, (Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 541 ) In my own personal case, the surgery that my father received for his brain cancer was undoubtedly the largest factor in preserving his life. The recovery time for such an aggressive surgery is very long and not without its side effects, however it is one of the most powerful weapons in our anti-cancer arsenal.

Radiation treatments are normally conducted after surgery if there was a large affected area, or treatments can be used on small tumors when surgery is not possible. Irradiating a large area of the body for a large tumor can create other types of cancer within the