Everyone has either heard of cancer, knows someone who's had (who has) it, or has personally been through cancer themselves. This is because cancer doesn't discriminate based on age, gender, or ethnicity... it happens to everyone. Some people have genetic predispositions or lifestyles that are associated with a higher risk of cancer, but nonetheless, even people not in these categories can be struck by the effects of cancer.
We don’t say this to scare you. There are just as many people (significantly more, actually) who will be lucky enough to never have to battle cancer in any form. That doesn’t mean this post isn’t relevant to them. Everyone, regardless of whether they have a high or low likeliness of developing cancer at some point in their lives, should understand the different steps in the cancer care process, and participate regularly in at least one of them.
Stage 1: Screening
This is arguably the most important stage of cancer care. Early detection is key in getting a head start on treatment and increasing the survival rate for almost every single type of cancer out there. Even if you aren’t exhibiting symptoms of cancer you should regularly be screened, particularly once you hit 40 or if you have family history of cancer. The screening stage can involve procedures like mammography, ultrasound, and MRI or PET-CT scans.
Stage 2: Diagnosis
When you’re screened for cancer, things typically go one of two ways. Either they find something or they don’t. Most people exit the cancer care process after the screening stage, but there are still several who go on to deal with diagnosis. If they find something during the screening process, most likely you’ll undergo a biopsy, allowing doctors to remove a sample to test for cancer. They’ll run a pathology test to determine whether or not the sample is cancerous, as well as what stage the cancer is. Many patients believe that diagnosis is the most difficult stage of cancer care.
Stage 3: Treatment
After a patient has received a diagnosis, a doctor will set down and set up a treatment plan with them. There are a variety of treatment options out there, and each treatment plan is unique to the patient’s individual situation. Some common types of treatment include: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy. There are also other types of treatment like immunotherapy and hyperthermia that are a bit less common.
Stage 4: Recovery
Diagnosis is difficult, and treatment is a beast of its own, but both are followed by a much happier stage: recovery. Depending on the intensity of your treatment, recovery can be a long and arduous process, but it’s one most patients are happy to reach. Cancer recovery can be challenging, but it’s incredibly important. Patients who are recovering should work at their own pace to regain their strength and get their body back to normal.
Cancer happens, and it is scary, but there are things we all can do to assuage it's terror. Each of these stages can be stressful and overwhelming, but a support group can do a lot to help those feelings. If you don't have cancer, but know someone who does, be that friend in their time of need--it could be a better medicine for them instead of harsh cancer treatments. If you're personally battling cancer, make sure you choose a facility that provides quality treatment in each step of the cancer care process, and let us know what we can do to help.