to accompany and give back hope

Parish Nursing Bulletin



Series on some major health problems: Part 4

Major Crime Family: The Cancers

In North America, cancer is second only to heart disease as a cause of death. Because there are so many different kinds, it is more appropriate to think of cancer as a "family" of diseases rather than as a single entity. Regardless of type, cancer's common characteristic is that it involves uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that tend to invade surrounding tissue and spread to distant sites. NB: Not all tumours are cancerous. Some are benign (they don't spread).

Risk factors include:
· Increasing age (although children also get some types of cancer)
· Family history of cancer
· Current cigarette smoking
· Chronic exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, radiation, and ultra-violet radiation (e.g. sunlight, black light)
· Immune system suppression
· Overweight/obesity
· Inactive lifestyle

Signs & symptoms may include:
· Change in bladder or bowel habits
· A sore that doesn't heal
· Unusual bleeding or discharge
· A lump in the breast or elsewhere
· Chronic indigestion or difficulty swallowing
· Obvious change in a wart/mole
· Nagging cough or persistent hoarseness

Usual treatments include:
Ssurgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy

New treatments currently being researched:
· Laser therapy combined with a light-sensitive, cancer-fighting drug
· Drugs that starve tumours by minimizing their blood flow
· Special viruses programmed to target only cancer cells
· Vaccines
· Heat (laser, microwave) or cold (freezing argon gas)
· Drugs that confuse cancer cells' own chemical signals
· Hormone blockers

Complications (usually related to treatment):
· Loss/alteration of a body part (surgery)
· Nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, etc. (chemotherapy, possibly radiation)
· Burns (radiation)
· Death

The good news:
There are ways to prevent or manage the disease such as:
· Reach/maintain a healthy weight
· Keep active/exercise daily
· Reduce/manage stress
· Stop smoking
· Report any suspicious signs to doctor


© 2009 Parish Nursing Ministry