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Cancer is scary—even with early detection and an excellent prognosis. Everything from the seemingly endless medical appointments and ongoing uncertainty to the aggressive treatments and their side-effects can cause anxiety and fear. And not just in the person with cancer. Family members also share the burden of fear, stress, and worry.
While cancer cases in this country are on the rise—so is the rate of survivorship. Thanks to advances in detection, treatment, and supportive care, over 15.5 million cancer survivors are alive today in the United States. And the survivor numbers keep growing.
Cancer isn’t one disease. There are over 100 different types of cancer which share some common characteristics and originate in different parts of the body. Cancer can start in a specific organ, system, or region, including the lungs, breast, prostate, colon, or blood. While cancers are alike in some ways, they are unique in the ways they grow and spread. And unique within each person.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body start to grow out of control. Unlike normal cells that divide in an orderly way, perform their function, then die when damaged or worn out, cancer cells keep on growing. They continue to divide, making new cells that crowd out normal, healthy cells. This not only creates problems in the part of the body where the cancer started, it causes cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body.
Some cancers divide and grow quickly, others grow and spread more slowly. The type of cancer you have and the stage of your cancer helps your oncologist determine the best treatment plan for you. Cancer treatments typically include surgery to remove a lump or tumor, radiation to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells, and chemotherapy to kill or slow the growth, especially when cancer cells have spread.
The side effects of cancer treatment—such as pain, fatigue, or depression—can be as difficult to handle and manage as the disease itself. But many people with cancer don’t talk to their doctor about their symptoms. This means symptoms that could have been treated are not, leading to unnecessary suffering, diminished quality of life, and, in some cases, missed follow-up appointments and scheduled treatments.
If you don’t feel well enough to get to your cancer treatment appointment, then the treatment can’t be effective.
While symptoms related to cancer and its treatment vary depending upon the type and stage of cancer, there are a number of common symptoms that most people with cancer experience.
While the symptoms of cancer and its treatment may vary for each person, the measures to relieve those symptoms should be the same—informed, swift, and caring. Be sure you have help lined up from family members, friends, or care professionals so you get support and the care you need during and after cancer treatment.
When someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, it’s easy to feel frightened and overwhelmed, especially if you are the primary caregiver. If you stay informed, connected to others who can help, open to new ideas and resources, and hopeful, you’ll be well prepared. And keep in mind—you are not alone in this.
To find more information for cancer caregivers and resources in your area, visit cancer.org.
Source: American Cancer Society