What to Know When Talking to an Oncologist

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When diagnosed with cancer, you may be immediately filled with questions, you may feel completely overwhelmed, or you may even feel numb when hearing the news. Whether it is immediate or delayed, you will likely have questions about cancer, your specific cancer, and what is going to happen next. The concern may be first identified by your primary care physician, who will then refer you to a cancer specialist or oncologist.

To start, cancer in generally is the growth of abnormal cells in the body. Those cells may be clustered in a specific area such as the lungs or liver, or they may be more spread out in the bones or blood. Cancer cells are able to develop when the natural control mechanisms that prevent uncontrolled cell growth stop working properly.

As the cells reproduce, they can form together creating a mass of cancerous tissue. This mass is called a tumor. In some cases, the cancerous cells are fully contained in the tumor,so when the tumor is removed, so is the cancer. Other times, the cancerous cells are also found in the tissue surrounding the tumor, which means more extensive treatment is needed.

There are five main categories of cancer; carcinomas, sarcomas, leukemia, lymphomas, and central nervous system cancers. Carcinomas starts in the tissues lining the internal organs. Sarcomas start in bone, cartilage, fat, or muscle. Leukemia starts in the blood or bone marrow. Lymphomas starts in the immune system, and central nervous systems cancer starts in the brain and spinal cord.

There are three general treatments for cancer, and the one that is best for you will be reviewed and presented by your oncologist. However, the three basic cancer treatment options are surgery, chemotherapy treatment, or radiation. Surgery removes the cancerous tumor, chemotherapy uses chemicals to kill cancer cells, and radiation therapy uses x-rays to kill cancer cells. Your oncologist may recommend one of these or combination of these treatment options.

The type of cancer treatment recommended will vary on a multitude of factors including the type of cancer, location or existence of tumors, and the stage the cancer is in. The treatment alone can be physical mentally, and emotional traumatic, but your oncologist can walk you through what will happen and recommend resources for you and your family members.

The resources available to you will vary based on your needs, but are extensive. You can pursue nutritional therapy to diminish the possible side effects of the treatment. You can also seek out naturepathic medicine and mind-body medicine to help with the negative effects of the treatment. There are also emotional support groups available to help you know you are not alone and to work through the mental and emotional impact of your diagnosis.

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