Cancer is a disease that results from abnormal growth and division of cells that make up the body’s tissues and organs. Under normal circumstances, cells reproduce in an orderly fashion to replace old cells, maintain tissue health and repair injuries. However, when growth control is lost and cells divide too much and too fast, a cellular mass -or “tumour” -is formed.
If the tumour is confined to a few cell layers and it does not invade surrounding tissues or organs, it is considered benign. By contrast, if the tumour spreads to surrounding tissues or organs, it is considered malignant, or cancerous. In order to grow further, a cancer develops its own blood vessels and this process is called angiogenesis. When it first develops, a malignant tumour may be confined to its original site. If cancerous cells are not treated they may break away from the original tumour, travel, and grow within other body parts, the process is known as metastasis.
Click on the below links to find more about the individual cancers
Psychological and Emotional Issues
Most people when diagnosed with cancer, experience a combination of new and confused emotions during what may be a highly stressful period. A diagnosis of cancer can also affect family members such as a spouse of children, who may often find dealing with the diagnosis even more stressful than the patients themselves. This can often add to the burden of anxiety and so is important to address and understand.
Cancer affects each individual and their family in different ways and often people need to find their own way of coping. The process of coping can often be one of trial and error, before finding what works best for you.
Following are a number of suggestions that may be useful to some people to help them cope with their experience of cancer.
Talk to others family, friends, your doctor, nurses, counsellors or religious leader.
Finding information about your illness and treatment and the help available will add to your understanding of what you are dealing with. Fear of the unknown may create uncertainty and increase stress. Good sources of information are your treatment centre (Hospital etc.) or the Cancer Council help line, which is 131120 in NSW.
Support Groups Joining a support group will allow you to meet with other people coping with their illness and can be a valuable source of support and helpful ideas. A list of contact groups and national centres is available on this web site.
There are also groups for carers, contact the Carers Association on 1800 242 636.
Attitudes our thoughts and attitudes have a great impact on how we feel about things. We may not always be able to change th3e things that happen to us, but we can influence the impact they have on our lives. It is important to acknowledge the positive as well as negative aspects of a situation. Be realistic and try to avoid jumping to conclusions, talking to others may give you a different perspective on circumstances. Family and friends are often very upset and fear that their emotions may further exacerbate the situation. Try not to be afraid of your emotions and the emotional reactions of others, try to be available to talk about the issue with loved ones.
Listen to Others Try to accept how your close family and friends are feeling, you don’t have to solve their problems, just be there to listen. They may also be going through a tough time, so getting upset and crying are natural reactions. Not wanting to talk is also a normal reaction and may be a way of coping for some people. If you are particularly concerned with how someone is coping it may be useful talk to someone to find out how best to help.
Routine Many people find it beneficial to continue with life’s daily routines. It is important to try to cheer yourselves up and take your mind off things, an outing or chat about future plans may provide some stress relief.
Manage Stress- Be aware of your stress levels and try to manage these. Signs of stress can include; restlessness, fear panic, racing thoughts, forgetfulness, muscle aches, irritability and a loss of enjoyment in activity and life. There are many ideas and methods that can assist with relaxation, including breathing exercises or gentle activities such as Yoga. Get to know your body and its normal reactions so that you can recognise the signs and symptoms of stress. Try to allow yourself regular time for relaxation so that it becomes part of your daily routine; stress relievers such as breathing exercises can be performed anywhere. These routines can be enjoyable and may have lasting effects throughout the day.
Find out what is best for you. Most people find that coping with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer is a difficult time. However, with time, most are able to cope and get on with their lives. Some people may need extra help, especially if there are other stresses in their lives. If you need further information or advice, talk to your treating team, the hospital Social worker or psychologist or your local or state Cancer Information Service, about what services might be helpful and available in your area.
Suggestions for Patients
You may have many questions about your care, your doctor and treating team will be guided be how much you want to know and the questions that you ask.
Make a list of questions to take to your appointment and perhaps take someone with you so that you don’t miss anything. Don’t be afraid to ask a number of questions or even to ask the same one twice. There are a number of good sources that can help answer questions, available through your local or State Cancer Information Service. Hospital and Community services may offer emotional support either individually or through support groups and networks. Sharing feelings, experiences and ideas can be valuable, spiritual belief may also bring comfort.
Ill health can disrupt family life, and the roles and responsibilities of family members may change. Family members may have different needs at different times, some may discuss issues openly and others may not. This requires patience and understanding and you as the patient should let people know what you are prepared to talk about, with whom and when.
It may be helpful to examine your lifestyle and responsibilities and to reassess your priorities and make adjustments accordingly. Learn to pace yourself and to listen to your body, accept offers of help from family and friends. The side effects of treatments can also take their toll on your mind and body. Your energy levels and self-esteem may be affected, so continue to recognise your strengths and remind yourself that your loved ones still recognise these traits in you. Try to maintain a healthy diet and good sleeping patterns in order to maintain your strength and assist your recovery from treatment.
Suggestions for Family and Friends
Avoid trying to keep things from the patient. Often trying to ‘protect’ the patient often makes their fears even worse. Patients appreciate the opportunity and have a right to make important decisions that affect their lives. Continue to involve the patient in activities you shared and enjoyed in the past. Make specific offers of help that may be easy for the patient to accept, such as a lift or help with heavy bags etc.
It is important to allow the patient to take the lead in talking about issues, so try to be a good listener. Don’t feel that it is up to you to make everything better, no matter how much you wish you could. Offer encouragement and convey affection, try to take time off from taking about the illness, physical contact and laughter are often excellent ways to help people cope.
Try to involve everyone concerned when dealing with important issues such as family matters. Children also need to have information about what is happening within the family unit or to their parents. Always remember, that even when ill, people are still the same person inside as they were before the problems began.
Family and friends are also affected by a cancer diagnosis; so don’t forget to look after yourself too. Be realistic about what you can offer and do, if everyone can do a little, it make life easier all round.