Cancer is a very scary thing. It can instantly take a loved one’s life, a friend’s, or a teacher’s. Cancer and the treatments show that throughout our society that we will go through extreme measures because we are afraid of dying. Treatments can be very expensive and may not always stop the progression of the cancer. I will discuss not only the physical impacts that cancer treatment can have on the individual, but also one of the major impacts it has on society.
The financial distress caused by the cost of cancer care can cause patients to lose their homes or jobs.
There are many types of cancer treatment. The types of treatment that you receive will depend on the type of cancer you have and how advanced it is. Some people with cancer will have only one treatment. But most people have a combination of treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
The first, and most commonly known treatment is called Chemotherapy.
The first chemotherapy cancer treatment was used in 1956. Since then, scientists have discovered that a combination of treatment types gives the best chances of killing the cancer. It works by keeping the cancer cells from growing and dividing to make more cells. It works throughout the entire body and is a systemic treatment. The side effects of chemotherapy can be severe. Nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite, hair loss, and becoming immunocompromised (bodies inability to fight infection), just to name a few. It is the prefered choice for treating fast growing cancers.
Chemotherapy doesn’t only kill the cancer cells, but it also kills your body’s healthy cells, such as your immune system, bone marrow, heart and kidneys. After the cancer has been ‘treated’ they don’t always say it’s been cured due to the fact that it can always come back.
Next, many people with cancer are treated with surgery. Depending on the type of cancer and how advanced it is, surgery may be an option. Surgery can be used as the only treatment. But most often, you will also have other cancer treatments. Surgery works best for solid tumors that are contained in one area. Surgery can also be used to remove a tumor that is causing pain or discomfort. For a lucky few, some are able to become cancer following surgical intervention without the need for further chemotherapy or radiation.
For example, my dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer when I was about eight-years-old. He was only thirty-nine. He made the decision to have the entire kidney removed that the cancerous tumor was in. I remember him telling me, “You can live with one kidney. I want to see my kids grow up and don’t want to risk the chance or recurrence with just removing the tumor”. During surgery, lymph node samples were taken that would then be sent off for analysis. If the lymph nodes come back positive for cancer cells, then further treatment would be needed with chemotherapy or radiation. My dad was one of the lucky ones, he did not have to go through chemotherapy along with all of its harsh side effects. Determining if surgery is an appropriate treatment options depends on the type of cancer the patient has, where it is at in the body, and what stage the cancer is in. The stage levels go up by how big the cancer is, such as stage 1 being the smallest, and going up from there.
Another type of cancer treatment is radiation, which works only on the specific area of the body needed to destroy the cancer. Radiation may be used alone, or in combination with chemotherapy and/or surgery. At high doses, radiation therapy kills cancer cells or slows the growth by damaging their DNA. Cancer cells with damaged DNA will stop dividing or die. Radiation therapy does not kill cancer cells right away. It can take days or weeks of treatment to be effective. Then, cancer cells continue dying for weeks or months after radiation therapy ends. This is the reason why radiation therapy alone is not used for fast growing cancers.
There are two main types of radiation therapy, external beam and internal. The type of radiation therapy a person would receive depends on many factors, including: type of cancer, size of tumor, location in the body, and general health or medical history.
External beam radiation therapy comes from a machine that aims the radiation at your cancer. This is considered a local treatment since it treats a specific body part. Internal beam radiation therapy is where a source of radiation is put inside your body. It can be a liquid or solid. Internal beam radiation therapy as a solid source can come in the form of a capsule, seeds, or ribbon. It is placed in your body in or near the tumor. This too is considered a local treatment and is directed at a specific body part. Internal radiation therapy in a liquid form is called systemic therapy. This means the radiation therapy travels through the blood to tissues throughout your body. This can be delivered by swallowing or injected. Radiation therapy, for some people, may be the only treatment needed. But, most often it is used in combination with surgery or chemotherapy.. It can be given before, during, or after surgery.
Lifetime dose limits – amount of radiation your body can safely receive over a lifetime. This can affect where radiation can be used a second time on the same body part. But, if one area has received the lifetime dose limit, the areas might still be able to be treated depending on the distance between the two areas. Fatigue is most commonly seen across all areas treated. Depending on the part of the body being treated, the side effects can vary greatly from diarrhea, hair loss or skin changes.
Is it that more people have cancer or that our diagnostics are finding it faster and easier? Many people know someone with cancer or have a friend or a teacher knowing someone who had cancer. Losing a loved one also affects our society because lot of people are losing their life from cancer, it affects our society because we never know when it could be us or someone we are very close with to have cancer and possibly lose their life.
For our society, cancer affects people who may not have insurance to help cover the cost of the treatment and without insurance they are very expensive. For patients, it can affect the livelihood of their families and, often, can leave debt as their legacy long after their deaths. From 1995 to 2014, in fact, there was a sharp increase in the launch price of new cancer drugs—that is, the cost of a new drug being introduced to the market for the first time. Most cancer drugs launched between 2009 and 2014 were priced at more than $100,000 per patient for one year of treatment. More recently, we’ve seen launch prices of more than $400,000 for a year of treatment. As a consequence of these increasing prices, according to one recent analysis, some patients may face out-of-pocket costs of nearly $12,000 a year for one drug. One thing is for sure, cancer treatments have many implications. What the individual goes through physically, mentally, and psychologically, but the impacts it has on society as a whole.
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