Different medical conditions and illnesses require different approaches to deliver efficient and effective health care. The approach to care should not only improve the patient’s prognosis but also do this using the least amount of resources. Cancer is one of the medical conditions the prevalence of which has increased over the past decade. This essay seeks to describe the best approach to care for cancer patients. It will also discuss the diagnosis and staging of cancer and the complications of the disease. Next, the essay will detail the side effects of its treatment and the potential measures to take to mitigate the adverse physical and psychological effects of cancer and/or its treatment. Analysis indicates that integrated care approach is the best approach to treating and taking care of cancer patients.
Integrated Care Approach
Cancer is a dire medical condition that requires a multidisciplinary and multifaceted approach to be addressed effectively (Simpson, Truant & Resnick, 2014). It is caused by the fact that its effects are not only physical but also emotional and psychological. Even in the physical sense, the effects of cancer transcend the area or body part that is cancerous. As such, the best approach to care should be an integrative care approach that takes into consideration all the mediating factors to offer comprehensive care. Integrative care approach will not only treat cancer but also treat the non-physical issues such as depression, the particular patient’s coexistent diseases and their defective health behaviors (Liu, Perkins & Duffy, 2015).
Primarily, integrated approach incudes the activities of multiple specialists from different medical fields. Their involvement ensures that the patient gets the best care available. This is more effective as compared to a scenario where the ill person has to visit several specialists, get first and the second opinion and then independently decide on the appropriate treatment to seek (Edwards, 2014). Furthermore, integrated care approach to treating cancer avails a platform for exchange of opinions in a multidisciplinary context, more treatment options and a comprehensive treatment program that spans across physical and emotional interventions. Crucially, it also encompasses individualized inclusive care (Simpson et al., 2014). There is no typical cancer. Each case of cancer is different and unique, and the approach to treating it should mirror these inherent personal differences through patient consultation.
Diagnosis and Staging of Cancer
There are different types of cancers with varying effects on different sections of the body. As such, the most common way of diagnosing the disease is through conducting a series of physical examinations which identify the signs and symptoms that point to the presence of cancerous cells in the body (Guassora, Jarlbaek & Thorsen, 2015). The physical examinations can give insights into the type of cancer experienced and its primary location. The medical history of the patient may also come in handy in diagnosing cancer. Moreover, imaging studies using devices such as CT scans, ultrasound, x-rays and MRI scans can be used to detect the presence of abnormal cells in the body. They can also be used to test them for cancer (Liu et al., 2015). Endoscopy is appropriate for diagnosing intestinal cancers. Other cancers that occur in parts of the body which are not readily visible can be diagnosed using radionuclide scanning (Edwards, 2014).
Cancer can be detected at various stages of its growth. While diagnosing the illness, the oncologists perform further tests to determine the extent of cancer in the body. There are various ways to determine staging of cancer. Regardless of the methods used, there are several elements considered during the process. They include the site of the primary tumor cells, the size of the tumor, and the extent to which the lymph nodes have been affected by cancer. The presence or extent of metastases is also an element that is considered (Leary, 2012; Jacobsen & Andrykowski, 2015). The most common method of cancer staging is the TNM method. It ranks the condition while considering the tumor (T) extent, the extent to which it has affected the lymph nodes (N), and the presence and extent of metastases (M) (Leary, 2012). Another common method is the Roman Numeral Staging, which grades cancer according to its severity from the first stage to the fourth stage, with stage IV being the most severe (Edwards, 2014).
Complications of Cancer
Suffering from cancer comes with a host of medical complications that can be detrimental to the human health. Some of the major complications of the disease include weight loss, nervous, and immune system complications. Cancer can cause weight loss to a suffering patient (Jacobsen & Andrykowski, 2015). The cancerous cells use the nutrients meant for the normal cells thus causing malnutrition and subsequent weight loss. If the disease presses against the nervous system, it can cause damage to the nerves (Simpson et al., 2014). This can even lead to paralysis, seizure, and constant headache if the illness is in the brain. Cancer can also cause abnormal reactions of the immune system (Simpson et al., 2014). This occurs when the normal immune system attacks the normal cells in its bid to attack the abnormal cancerous cells. This often leads to seizures and blood clot in some instances.
Side Effects of Treatment
There are various methods of treating cancer. The most common ones are radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgical interventions. The choice of treatment method depends on the type of cancer, the area of the body affected and the stage it has reached (Edwards, 2014). Each of the treatment approaches has its side effects. The surgical operations method involves surgically removing the malignant tumor after the identifications of the tissue through biopsy. The side effects of surgery include pain, anemia and fatigue due to the resultant blood loss (Guassora et al., 2015). Radiotherapy involves using electromagnetic energy to kill malignant tumor cells. Its side effects comprise nausea, vomiting, lymphedema, fatigue, impotence, skin problems and loss of appetite (Leary, 2012). The third common treatment method is chemotherapy. Its side effects include anemia, fatigue, insomnia, hair loss, nausea and loss of appetite. Most of these side effects are short lasting and are present only during the period throughout which the treatment is administered (Edwards, 2014).
Methods to Lessen Physical and Psychological Effects
As it has been determined there are many physical effects of cancer and even its treatment processes. The common ones include fatigue, anemia, nausea, pain and insomnia among others (Leary, 2012). Apart from the physical ones there are also psychological effects and these comprise shock, disbelief, grief, anxiety, depression, anger and a feeling of helplessness (Leary, 2012). While it may not be possible to address these physical and psychological effects effectively, their adverse effects can be mitigated considerably and aid in achieving favorable outcomes for the patient. As for the physical effects, pain relief medications can be appropriated to reduce pain (Edwards, 2014). Fatigue can be addressed through extensive resting periods and taking part in exercise programs. As for insomnia, sleeping pills can be administered while for hair loss one can change the hairstyle or use wigs to make the hair loss less conspicuous thus reducing stigmatization (Jacobsen & Andrykowski, 2015).
As for psychological effects, one should seek professional counseling to reduce the effects of depression and shock. Practicing health-enhancing lifestyles, for example, optimal nutrition and rest can go a long way towards coping with diagnosis and effects of treatment. Crucially, mind-body techniques such as yoga and tai chi among others can also help in achieving peace of mind. The techniques can also act as alternative medicine especially after diagnosis that represents the perfect teachable moment for cancer victims (Edwards, 2014).
In conclusion, it is evident that cancer can be devastating both physically and psychologically. As such, a comprehensive approach must be adopted when devising care for a cancer patient. The best approach to care for cancer patients is an integrated care approach where the interventions enlisted address not only cancer but also the accompanying non-cancer issues. The approach should also be tailored according to the specific, unique characteristics and demands of the cancer patient. The type of treatment relies on the stage and type of cancer and personal preferences. If properly managed, the integrated approach should be able to identify the complications of cancer, the adverse physical effects of treatment and the psychological effects and address them leading to a better prognosis for the cancer patient.