A Simple Guide to Understanding Cancer & Its Implications

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Cancer is a fatal condition which starts out when cells grow uncontrollably and divide abnormally fast. This causes tumours which damage the immune system. Cancer is not just one condition, however. There are many different types (over 100) of cancer – from the lung to breast cancer. Most types require chemotherapy or a combination of chemo with other therapy as treatment. Regardless, cancer has many implications for the patient and those around him or her.

1. Lifestyle Changes

Although not all cancer comes about due to your habits and lifestyle (genetics play a role as well), an implication of cancer is that you may not be leading the healthiest life. Once diagnosed, you will have to change some aspects of your life. For instance, if you are a smoker, you will need to end that habit. If you drink alcohol heavily, you will have to cut down on its consumption. Cancer is no joke. You will need to change your lifestyle to avoid recurrence if you do recover the first time around. 

2. Treatment 

As is the case with any serious condition, cancer requires intense treatment. Treatment for cancer is based on the cancer type and cancer stage. In some cases, when the surgeon extracts the tissue for biopsy, diagnosis and treatment may occur simultaneously if the cancer is completely surgically removed.

While patients may undergo a different sequenced procedure or regimen for their cancer, most procedures have one or more components of cancer explained by doctors: chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, or combination therapy (a mixture of two or all three treatments).

The same treatments described above are used for palliative therapy (treatment or medical care used to reduce symptoms of the disease but unable to cure the patient). It is done with the intention of enhancing and strengthening the terminally ill cancer patient’s quality of life. To reduce symptoms such as pain medications and anti-nausea drugs, there are many other palliative therapies.

3. Side Effects

Another implication of cancer is that aggressive treatment will lead to many side effects which will affect your life. Side effects are problems that occur when healthy organs or tissues are affected by treatment. The following is a list of side effects you should look out for:

  • Appetite Loss
  • Anaemia
  • Bruising and Bleeding (Thrombocytopenia)
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Delirium
  • Edema (Swelling)
  • Fatigue and Pain
  • Flu-Like Symptoms
  • Fertility Issues
  • Hair Loss (Alopecia)
  • Infection and Neutropenia
  • Mouth and Throat Problems
  • Memory or Concentration Problems
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Nerve Issues (Peripheral Neuropathy)
  • Organ-Related Inflammation 
  • Sexual Health Issues
  • Sleep Problems
  • Skin and Nail Changes
  • Urinary and Bladder Problems

4. Emotional Implications

Cancer does not simply have physical implications. It affects your emotional state as well. Cancer patients are often emotional – angry about their situation, they feel upset, helpless, isolated in their experience. It’s important to be there for your loved one and help them deal with these emotions. 

5. Mental Implications

People suffering from cancer might even be prone to mental health issues. Cancer patients often wonder, “Why me?” Physicians are not sure what causes cancer. If doctors are unable to give a cause, people may come up with their own ideas on why it happened.

Many people think they are punished for something they have or have not done in the past. Many people wonder if something they did cause cancer. 

If you have these feelings, you’re not alone. To people with cancer, thoughts and beliefs like this are normal. You need to understand that cancer is not a punishment for your past actions. Try not to blame yourself or concentrate on finding ways you could have prevented cancer. Cancer is not your fault, and you can hardly find out what caused it. Rather, now concentrate on taking good care of yourself. 

If you feel anxious or depressed, don’t hesitate to contact a therapist and help talk through these feelings. 

6. Implications for Loved Ones

Cancer is not a disease you suffer on your own. Your cancer diagnosis will have a significant impact on those around you. Friends and family may feel as helpless, angry or upset as you. It’s important to remember that you should talk to those closest to you. Your loved ones can help you and you should let them be there for you. 

Cancer might be a monstrous condition but by understanding it better, you can deal with it with more courage and perhaps even remain positive throughout the treatment process. 

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