The aim of this chapter is provide an overview of cancer, a biologically similar, but diverse, group of diseases. Understanding the disease process will help the practising nurse to plan nursing care and to seek appropriate specialist advice. Cancer can affect almost any part of the body and has significance for different age groups and within different cultures, so the effect on the individual, the prognosis, and the treatment will significantly differ depending upon cancer site and treatment setting. This chapter will outline symptoms in relation to the site of the body affected to illustrate the effect of cancer on an individual, and consideration will also be given to the wider impact of the disease. This chapter is underpinned by the principles of evidence-based patient-centred care and will focus on the concepts associated with promoting lifestyles that reduce the risk of developing cancer, screening to identify those at risk, detection of early disease, and the care and management of the individual with and beyond cancer. Cancer refers to a condition in which there is abnormal growth of cells. The characteristics of cancer cells are that they divide uncontrollably, do not require stimulation for growth as do normal cells, and are not restrained by the presence of neighbouring cells. Because cancer is concerned with a failure in the growth control mechanism of the cell at a gene or DNA level and because there are potentially as many different types of cancer as there are types of body cell, no two cancers are exactly alike (Cancer Research UK, 2009). The site at which a cancer first develops (primary cancer), such as lung or breast, is often used broadly to describe it; however, cancer is generally defined by the origin of the type of cell that has become cancerous. The most frequent sites and types of cancer are as follows….● Carcinomas—arise in epithelial cells in the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and other internal organs, and make up about 85% of all cancers (Cancer Research UK, 2010a) ● Haematological (blood and lymphatic system) cancers—arise from blood or bone marrow cells; include leukaemia, lymphoma, and myeloma, and make up about 7% of all cancers, but leukaemia is the commonest cancer in children (Cancer Research UK, 2010b)…
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