Cancer: Diagnosis and Staging

Cancer: Diagnosis and Staging

Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death among African Americans. The pain and suffering inflicted upon the patient and caregivers are almost unbearable. Many people understandably try to avoid having anything to do with Cancer.  Knowing more about Cancer is tremendously important to everyone involved. Jay Harold has a post on Cancer: What You need to Know,” that provides basic information about Cancer. This article will focus on the diagnosis and staging of Cancer and is based on information from the National Cancer Institute. 

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Cancer can cause many different symptoms. Most often these symptoms are not caused by cancer, but by benign tumors or other problems. If you have symptoms that last for a couple of weeks, your doctor will do a physical exam and order tests or other procedures to find out what is causing your symptoms.

If you do find out you have cancer, your doctor will order another set of tests or procedures to figure out its stage. Stage refers to the extent of your cancer and is based on factors such as how large the tumor is and if it has spread. Once your doctor knows the stage of your cancer, he will be able to suggest treatment and discuss your prognosis with you. Understanding your cancer and knowing what to expect can help you and your loved ones feel more in control and cope with your diagnosis.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Only a doctor can tell if your symptoms are caused by cancer or some other problem. Usually, early cancer does not cause pain. If you have symptoms, do not wait to feel pain before seeing a doctor. To learn more about symptoms for a specific cancer, see the PDQ® cancer treatment summaries for adult and childhood cancers. These summaries include information about symptoms.

Senior African American woman with headache

A Cancer Diagnosis is a shattering experience.

If you have a symptom that does not go away or a screening test result that suggests cancer, the doctor must find out whether it is due to cancer or some other cause. The doctor may ask about your personal and family medical history and do a physical exam. The doctor could order laboratory tests, imaging procedures, and a biopsy.  This information will help the doctor come up with a diagnosis.

Staging and Prognosis

Once cancer is diagnosed, the doctor needs to determine the stage. Stage describes details about your cancer, such as how large the tumor is and if it has spread. Knowing the stage helps the doctor suggest treatment options and discuss prognosis.
Staging describes the severity of a person’s cancer based on the size and/or extent (reach) of the original (primary) tumor and whether or not cancer has spread in the body. Staging is important for several reasons:

  • Staging helps the doctor plan the appropriate treatment.
  • Cancer stage can be used in estimating a person’s prognosis.
  • Knowing the stage of cancer is important in identifying clinical trials that may be a suitable treatment option for a patient.
  • Staging helps health care providers and researchers exchange information about patients; it also gives them a common terminology for evaluating the results of clinical trials and comparing the results of different trials.

Staging is based on knowledge of the way cancer progress. Cancer cells grow and divide without control or order, and they do not die when they should. As a result, they often form a mass of tissue called a tumor. As a tumor grows, it can invade nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also break away from a tumor and enter the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. By moving through the bloodstream or lymphatic system, cancer cells can spread from the primary site to lymph nodes or to other organs, where they may form new tumors. The spread of cancer is called metastasis.

Cancer: Diagnosis and Staging

Support is important when a Cancer diagnosis is given.

All cancers are staged when they are first diagnosed. This stage classification, which is typically assigned before treatment, is called the clinical stage. Cancer may be further staged after surgery or biopsy when the extent of the cancer is better known. This stage designation (called the pathologic stage) combines the results of the clinical staging with the surgical results.

A cancer is always referred to by the stage it was given at diagnosis, even if it gets worse or spreads. New information about how cancer changes over time simply gets added on to the original stage designation. The cancer stage designation doesn’t change (even though the cancer itself might) because survival statistics and information on treatment by stage for specific cancer types are based on the original cancer stage at diagnosis.

Prognosis describes how serious your cancer is and your chances of survival. Learn about survival statistics and how they are used to estimate prognosis. The following information is from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Many Factors Can Affect Your Prognosis

Some of the factors that affect prognosis include:

  • The type of cancer and where it is in your body
  • The stage of the cancer, which refers to the size of the cancer and if it has spread to other parts of your body
  • The cancer’s grade, which refers to how abnormal the cancer cells look under a microscope. Grade provides clues about how quickly the cancer is likely to grow and spread.
  • Certain traits of the cancer cells
  • Your age and how healthy you were before cancer
  • How you respond to treatment

Jay Harold has found a video from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that helps patients understand their Cancer Prognosis. 

In 2015, an estimated 1,658,370 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 589,430 people will die from the disease. Jay Harold is always looking for ways to improve your health by providing knowledge that you can use now.

Play the free  “Slow Roll Through Civil Rights” Game found on the Jay Harold website. Enjoyed this post? Share it and read more here.


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