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Cancer Basics

Definition

Cancer refers to disease characterized by the development and division of abnormal cells. Cancer starts when old or abnormal cells don’t die when they should. As the cancer cells grow out of control, they can crowd out normal cells, making it difficult for your body to fight them off and work as it should.

Treatments*

There are many different kinds of cancer treatment. The type of treatment you have depends upon the type of cancer and its stage (or how advanced the cancer has become). Sometimes you may only require one course of treatment, but many times treatment types are combined (such as surgery with chemotherapy or surgery and radiation). The three main ways to treat cancer are:

  • surgery
  • radiation
  • chemotherapy

However, many other forms of treatment exist, including:

  • immunotherapy
  • hormone therapy
  • targeted therapy
  • clinical trials
  • alternative medicine

Consult your medical team to discuss what options you have.

Side Effects*

Cancer can cause a wide range of symptoms. The following are signs that are associated (but not specific to) cancer, including:

  • exhaustion
  • frequent, unexplained night sweats
  • a lump or mass that can be felt underneath the surface of the skin
  • intense feeling of burning or itching on the skin
  • changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • changes in appetite
  • difficulty breathing or persistent cough
  • difficulty swallowing
  • unexplained bruising or bleeding
  • persistent join pain
  • unintended weight loss
  • skin changes (darkening or redness of the skin, changes to the appearance of moles, yellowing of skin tone)

These signs can be attributed to a wide variety of ailments. If you have persistent symptoms that concern you, make an appointment with you doctor to get answers and solutions to these symptoms.

Tips and Tricks

We are here to help provide you with facts, resources, and support. We have a team of specialized staff who are knowledgeable in the field, and have amazing volunteers (and cancer survivors) who can provide answers to your cancer questions. However, we are not your physician, and cannot provide direct medical advice as to your next steps. Cancer is complicated: in order to do what is best for you, consult with your medical team and your family on your specific needs and concerns. We can help you with locating local resources, information, and treatment options but your next steps are always at your discretion.

Downloads

The information contained in the Treatments and Side Effects sections are for informational purposes only. As with any cancer type, treatments and side effects can differ by patient. Please consult your oncologist for the specific treatments and side effects for your specific cancer.

I had my chemotherapy treatments on Friday mornings so I could go home & sleep the rest of the weekend. I took the same bag & items with me to EVERY treatment – all 16 of them! I carried a pink bag since I had breast cancer (believe me, not because it was my favorite color!) In my bag, I had Chap stick to keep my lips moist; eye drops in case my eyes were dry or burning; bottled water for hydration; diet coke to drink (because you have to have a soft drink with snacks, right?); snacks (peanut butter crackers, chips, etc); magazines, crossword puzzle or word search books & pencil to take my mind off what was going on; journal & ink pen to write about how I was feeling or jot down questions I wanted to ask my oncologist; a blanket to keep me warm (my blanket was prayed over by my church & I had a picture of my dad sewn on because he was watching over me from above!); and of course, CHOCOLATE & my BFF & husband!! They both came to every treatment & my BFF brought me Stephen Libs Turtles – we called my treatment days Turtle Fridays! All of these things made the visits a little easier to handle. You just need to take the things that will make you feel comfortable.
Angie
Survivor
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