Сancer is a famous “killer” of cancer patients, which invariably ranks first in the ratings for prevalence, lethality, and belated diagnosis. Few people know about what methods of examination can detect cancer at an early stage and what modern medicine can offer as a weapon in the fight against a tumor.
Malignant neoplasms are a fairly extensive group of tumors, each of which has its favorite localization, the speed of development and prognosis. Some cancers are able to grow imperceptibly over the years, others are characterized by lightning fastness. Nevertheless, doctors note the general properties of neoplasms of lung tissue: for example, they are more often found in people who have smoked for many years, as well as for residents of cities with poor ecology, miners and employees of harmful industries. The likelihood of cancer increases with age.
World statistics is disappointing: according to the World Health Organization, a million patients are diagnosed with this ailment every year.
Meanwhile, doctors are sure that if patients addressed them in time, with the 1 and 2 stages of the disease, then the overwhelming majority of patients could be saved from death. And even with a delayed diagnosis, there are chances for recovery. The main thing is to undergo a thorough examination and an effective course of treatment for cancer.
Stages of cancer
Classification of cancer simplifies the selection of optimal treatment tactics, but doctors analyze the situation far beyond the conventional stages – because each tumor and each patient is individual.
The zero stage – “cancer in place” – is extremely rare, because it implies the presence of a microscopic tumor. Doctors usually detect such a tumor by accident, during the treatment of another pathology of the lungs. It is quite easy to cure it, the prognosis for the patient’s life is favorable;
The first stage implies the presence of a tumor up to 3 cm in diameter, which does not have metastases (in other organs or lymph nodes). Treatment is almost always successful;
The second stage is diagnosed when cancer has grown to 6 cm, and one or two of the closest to the body lymph nodes showed malignant cells. In some cases, at this stage, the oncologists can remove the tumor;
The third stage is a condition in which the tumor has grown enough to affect the adjacent segment of the body. In this pathological process involves many lymph nodes, surrounding the body. The prognosis is usually unfavorable, but proper treatment helps to significantly slow the progression of the disease.
The fourth stage – also called terminal – means that cancer has escaped from the body tissue, spreading to other parts of the body. It is not necessary that the initial tumor has a large size: 4 stage of cancer is diagnosed in each case when there are distant metastases. Patients with terminal cancer rarely live longer than 2 years.
How to treat cancer?
A crucial factor in the success of cancer treatment is a timely diagnosis. In many progressive countries, there has already been a practice of mandatory regular screening using low-dose computed tomography (CT). This procedure does not take much time and does not put patients at risk due to high radiation doses. Compared with the traditionally used fluorography, CT can establish or disprove the diagnosis of cancer with much greater accuracy. In addition, a serious problem is the lack of regular preventive visits to the doctor that would help to reveal early signs of cancer. As a consequence – a person comes to the doctor with the symptoms that are characteristic for the 3rd and 4th stages of cancer: a protracted cough, chronic pneumonia and emaciation.
At the same time, European progressive healthcare organizations know how to suspect cancer in the early stages, how to reliably determine the location of the tumor and with the help of which analyzes and samples it’s possible to find out a specific type of neoplasm in order to choose the best combination of therapeutic methods.
When the necessary data on the disease are collected, the doctor decides on the tactics of fighting cancer. It is a mistake to think that the only effective method of treating a tumor is a surgical operation. However, in some situations, oncologists prefer chemotherapy, radiotherapy or the latest technologies, which provide an opportunity to reduce neoplasm volumes.
Surgical treatment is used in situations where the tumor has clear boundaries and can be removed simultaneously with the nearest lymph nodes. However, if oncologists have reason to suspect that the malignant cells have spread widely, they will offer to remove the segment or the whole body (if possible). Clinical practice shows that patients are able to live a full active life without some organs. In some cases, when there is no hope for complete healing, surgeons perform an operation aimed at reducing the tumor volume and removing metastases from vital organs.
Some types of cancer grow so quickly that trying to remove it with a scalpel is almost always doomed to failure. Chemotherapy comes to the rescue: treatment of tumors with drugs that are harmful to malignant cells (unfortunately, often for healthy ones). In some cases, this method is the only one that can help the patient. In others, chemotherapy is combined with surgery, allowing to reduce the amount of surgery and exclude relapse.
The optimal solution is an individual selection of drugs taking into account the peculiarities of the course of the disease, which is possible only after genetic analysis of tumor cells extracted from the biopsy.
Medications are prescribed by courses, at intervals of several weeks (this is necessary to allow the body to recover from side effects). At the end of therapy, the patient undergoes a tomography scan to track how the tumor changes under the influence of chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy cancer drugs:
Platinum drugs destroy the DNA of cancer cells. They relate to cytostatic agents of the alkylating type of action;
Alkylating agents – these drugs destroy proteins that are responsible for the formation of DNA of cancer cells;
Anthracyclines are drugs that form free radicals that damage the DNA of diseased cells (daunorubicin active ingredient);
Antimetabolites are drugs that affect the genetic apparatus of the cell and kill it during division. As a rule, the basis of these drugs is Gemcitabine (cytotoxic drug, antimetabolite from the group of pyrimidine antagonists);
Taxanes are drugs that disrupt the process of dividing cancer cells;
Vincalcaloids refer to the soft means of chemotherapy, which destroy the cytoskeleton of cancer cells.
Hormonal cancer drugs
Hormonal drugs are used to treat hormone-dependent tumors, such as uterine cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer. Also, hormonal drugs are prescribed to patients with such oncological diseases as a kidney tumor, a pancreas tumor, melanoma.
In male cancers, estrogen-containing drugs are prescribed to suppress androgens. In female cancers, androgen-containing drugs are prescribed (Tamoxifen, Herceptin, Taxol);
For both forms of cancer, such drugs as Avastin and Zoladex are recommended;
Doctors also prescribe hormonal drugs for thyroid cancer: Thyreocombe, Thyroxin.
Although hormonal drugs for cancer are effective, they have the opposite side – with long use, the body becomes immune to these drugs, and this weakens the effect of chemotherapeutic drugs over time.
Antiviral drugs for cancer
Some types of cancer develop due to the action of viruses. Antiviral drugs are prescribed to increase the resistance of immunity.
One of such viruses is the human papillomavirus. In order to strengthen the immune system of a person with cancer, a doctor prescribes drugs based on interferon (tilorone) solutions for internal injections or ointment compresses.
Radiation therapy is based on the harmful effect of radiation on living cells prone to rapid division. If a person has cancer, then primarily the tumor will suffer from radiotherapy. Doctors use devices that allow you to direct a focused beam of X-rays to the area where the tumor is located. Healthy tissues suffer insignificantly, especially if radiation is “delivered” directly to the body with a probe inserted into the body through the upper respiratory tract.
With some types of cancer and the presence of contraindications for surgery, radiotherapy is the only method of treatment. Radiotherapy is also prescribed to destroy or reduce the volume of metastases in lymph nodes and other organs.
This method has recently appeared in the arsenal of oncologists. Photodynamic therapy is a session of exposure to light of a certain length on the tumor, which is preliminarily treated with a special drug (photosensitizing agent), which increases the sensitivity of malignant cells to such an effect. Under the influence of the rays, the neoplasm decreases in size, and the effect of the course lasts for several months.
Photodynamic therapy can be used as an additional method of treating cancer, improving the prognosis of recovery, and as a basic medical tactic, to alleviate the symptoms of the disease in an irreversible stage.
Advanced treatment approaches
If the doctor offers treatment methods that you have never heard of, do not think that you will be a part of an “experiment”. It’s not necessarily about using some outlandish drugs or newly invented devices. This group also includes proven methods, which were mentioned above, but with modifications to the way they are used. For example, many modern clinics offer patients to experience the “Cyber-knife” – a device for focused radiation therapy, which literally burns a tumor, without incisions and anesthesia. Another example is the use of the newest chemotherapy drugs that block the growth of blood vessels around the neoplasm, disrupting its nutrition. As a result, the chances of a successful victory over cancer are increasing.
Despite encouraging results of scientific research, doctors still cannot guarantee the result in each specific clinical situation: a patient sometimes reacts to treatment in an unpredictable way. However, the patient and his family should do everything possible to fight cancer. An important role in the forecast is played by the patient’s psychological mood.
Complex treatment of cancer
Usually, cancer treatment is combined and consists of chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. Sometimes, in addition, high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation are prescribed. Children are treated according to standardized schemes. In practice, such treatment requires a well-coordinated teamwork of medical specialists in various fields: oncologists, radiologists, surgeons, psychologists, nurses and many other hospital staff.