Cancer is one of the most frightening diagnoses which a person can get from a doctor. It is suspected
based on the symptoms, the results of the screening tests as also a physical examination that the doctor
does. Only when cancer is correctly diagnosed, can the treatment be effective as different cancers are
When the doctor suspects cancer in a patient, he first carries out certain imaging tests like a CT scan, MRI and an X-ray. These tests are diagnostic tools used to identify the extent of cancer and its magnitude but they do not conclusively prove whether the tumor is malignant or benign. Only its presence in the particular body part is established beyond doubt.
Cancer can be accurately diagnosed through a biopsy of the tissue. In a biopsy, a small piece of the tissue from the suspected area is cut out and examined under a microscope to check for the presence of cancer cells. A biopsy is generally done under local anesthesia. The doctor either aspirates a piece of tissue using a hollow needle or cuts out a small piece of tissue with a scalpel. When a hollow needle is used, the doctor guides the needle to the correct spot with the help of a CT scan or an ultrasound. Once the diagnosis confirms cancer in a patient, the next step is staging, which helps the doctor to find out how advanced the cancer is, the size of the tumor, and the extent of its spread. After this the doctor decides on the mode of treatment.
The various ways in which cancer can be treated include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, proton therapy, bone marrow transplant to name just a few. Surgery is the oldest and the most conventional form of cancer treatment. The surgical oncologist removes the tumor along with some healthy tissue which is called the clear margin. This is done to ensure that the cancer does not recur.
Chemotherapy can be given either orally as a tablet, an injection or in the form of an IV. Chemotherapy destroys the cancer cells and has to be repeated in many doses. Radiation acts specifically on the cancer cells to inhibit their rapid growth. It is localized at the specific area of the body that requires the therapy. Radiation can either be external in which a radiation beam is directed at the specific area from outside. Internal radiation involves the implantation of a radioactive agent at the site of the tumor.
Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation in which the beam deposits the bulk of radiation at the site of the tumor. It is free of the side effects of the conventional form of radiation as it reduces the exposure of normal tissue to harmful radiation effects.
Bone marrow transplant is generally used in the treatment of the different types of blood cancers. The bone marrow which houses the stem cells are harvested from a healthy donor’s body and transplanted into the patient. These stem cells help to fight the cancer in the patient. While hormone therapy is utilized to block the hormones that feed the cancer cells and enable them to thrive PDT therapy which is the latest in cancer treatment, utilizes a laser along with a light sensitive drug which acts on the cancer cells and destroys them.