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Your Cancer Diagnosis

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is a shocking and devastating event. Just remember that the word cancer is not synonymous with incurable.

Each type of cancer is different and treatment for each varies in terms of emphasis on each of the 3 basic components of treatment: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Some cancers are unresponsive to chemotherapy and radiation therapy and can only be effectively treated with surgery. Others respond well to chemotherapy and/or hormonal therapy which treat micrometastatic disease.

Surgery is still required to remove all visible disease and disease involving the locoregional lymph nodes. Still others respond better to radiation therapy which is almost always given with a chemotherapeutic agent which makes the tissues more sensitive to the radiation. Some cancers are amenable to radiation treatments given as a local application known as brachytherapy. This type of treatment does not require a sensitizing chemotherapeutic medication. Your doctors will help you navigate this often confusing course of therapy.

You should ask as many questions as you need and obtain as much information as you need in order to understand your treatment. Your ultimate treatment plan may involve discussion and planning with several treating physicians from coordinating medical disciplines.

General Links For More In-Depth Information On Specific Cancer Types

Cancer Staging

The American Joint Committee on Cancer(AJCC) has created a standardized system of staging for most cancers which predicts survival based upon characteristics of tumor size or depth of penetration through tissue, quantitative involvement of lymph nodes and metastasis to other organs. There are 5 general stages defined in this system:

Stage 0:

In-situ cancer. Tumor which has not yet begun to invade other tissues within the organ of origin. It remains within the cell layer of origin.

Stage I:

Invasive cancer in which the tumor is small in size (generally less than 2 cm) or which has not penetrated beyond the muscular wall layer of the organ.

Stage II:

Invasive cancer between 2 and 5 cm or which has penetrated beyond the muscular wall layer but has not yet spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage III:

Invasive cancer which has spread to the locoregional (nearby) lymph nodes.

Stage IV:

Cancer which has spread to another organ.

There are additional subdivisions within each major staging category which allow for further refinement of the prognostic accuracy. More specific staging information for individual cancers may be found on the website links above.

Surgically Treated Illnesses