Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients

Being diagnosed with cancer is an emotionally challenging experience. Some people describe themselves as feeling “numb.” Others may feel sorrow, fear, anger, or even guilt if they believe their illness was caused by smoking or poor lifestyle choices. Learning about their condition can help patients have more control over the healing process. Cancer treatment has become sophisticated and complex and there are often several possible courses of action, so an informed patient is an essential participant in the decision-making process.

Taking a Proactive Approach

Once a patient moves past the initial shock of a cancer diagnosis, the focus should be on healing, physically and emotionally. It helps to remember that medicine has made great strides in treating cancer and that treatments have been refined to make them easier on patients:

  • Where possible, we perform minimally invasive surgery, which is less painful and reduces recovery time; sometimes, highly targeted radiation can be used instead of surgery.
  • Radiation oncology has progressed to where the tumor can be targeted with amazing specificity, sparing surrounding tissue and reducing side effects.
  • Chemotherapy is more advanced, using new drugs and combinations of drugs that have fewer side effects.

Coping with Cancer

All patients receiving care at our Cancer Institute are eligible to receive individual, group, and/or family counseling. This kind of psychological support is extremely helpful, both during treatment and throughout the recovery process. To help patients cope with both cancer and the treatment process, we also offer an extensive array of holistic, integrative therapies, available through our Integrative Wellness Center.

Understanding Cancer

Cancer can refer to any one of some 200 different diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells that invade and damage the body’s normal tissues. Types of cancer are named for the part of the body where the tumor first occurs (e.g., breast, liver, or prostate). When cancer affects the organs or bones, it forms tumors, but when cancer affects the blood and lymph systems, it circulates through the tissues rather than forming a mass.

When a tumor is noncancerous, it is referred to as “benign.” A cancerous tumor is considered “malignant.” Malignant tumors can break away and spread throughout the blood and lymph system to another part of the body, most often to the bones, lungs, liver, or brain. This process is called metastasis.

Cancer has multiple causes, not all of which are understood. These include the following:

  • Known carcinogens, such as cigarette smoke, asbestos, and certain chemicals
  • Oncoviruses, such as the HPV strains that cause cervical cancer and the Hepatitis B and C viruses responsible for certain liver cancers
  • Genetic mutations, such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer genes

There is still a lot to be learned about cancer and its causes; sometimes, it’s impossible to determine just what triggered tumor development. Patients have more to gain from focusing on getting better than from dwelling on what may or may not have caused their illness.