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Staying Alive & Living With Cancer

By Stephen M. Chouest, Sr. (four time cancer survivor)

      Years ago, I thought cancer was a terrible deadly thing which only affected older people and strangers. I did not consider the possibility that cancer would ever bother me or change my life in any significant way. I had the impression that only people who did something very dangerous or bad or who lived near a chemical site or a nuclear bomb site ever got cancer. I had no concept of how prevalent cancer is in todayís society. Unfortunately, cancer is a very common problem, and there are many different types of cancer.

    "Cancer" is a general term which covers many different conditions involving the uncontrolled growth, reproduction and spread of abnormal cells. It often takes many years for abnormal, microscopic cell growth to become apparent as cancer.Abnormal cells which are killed by the bodyís immunity system or which do not reproduce at an accelerated rate are not a problem. Since abnormalities in cell growth are not contagious, people with cancer present no medical risk to anyone around them.

    Cancer can sometimes be spread by blood through a person's circulatory system to different organs of the body which it can then attack and destroy. Some cancers affect just one organ while others may spread to various parts of the body. Approximately one of every three people in the U.S.will have cancer at some time in their lifetime. Approximately one of every eight or nine women will develop breast cancer during their life, usually after the age of 40. In fact, there are more than 100 different types of cancer.  A personís prognosis depends upon the type, form and stage of the cancer.

    An average human body contains about 60 trillion microscopic cells. Each cell contains encoded personal information that determines growth and cell reproduction matters ("genes"). 45 years ago scientists learned that human genes comprise 46 chromosomes of encoded DNA (Ĺ from each parent). Many significant advances have been made in cancer research in the area of genetics, both for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Genetic testing is now available which could allow doctors, employers, or potential insurers to determine which people are at the highest risk for certain types of cancer. Such testing is relatively expensive. Unless such information can be used to determine the particular cause or event which activates the cancerous cell division or to discover a cure, the utility of such personal information is highly questionable. Although a great deal has been learned about cancer, cancer still presents many mysteries.

    Many cancers grow very slowly and the onset of some types of cancer may take years to develop or discover. Cigarette addicts may not show signs of lung cancer for 25 years or more following prolonged cigarette exposure. Because of its prevalence and many variations, most people either directly or through some close friend or family member are forced to learn about cancer at some time. The emotional toll of a new cancer diagnosis can be nearly debilitating. The common reactions include denial, fear, anger and difficult questions (why me?). Prompt action to treat and defeat the condition before the cancer cells continue to spread is imperative. Acceptance and knowledge of the condition are essential for prompt action. After cancer has been survived, the anger and anxiety are often replaced by a new sense of the truly precious nature of time and the humanity of those who have shared the experience.

    Some forms of cancer are usually cured with relative ease while others are more painful and perilous. Many people have an unnatural fear of cancer (cancer phobia), probably because they donít understand cancer or think cancer is a terrible deadly thing which only affects older people and strangers. It is always easier to ignore a difficult issue than to deal with it, particularly when the issue requires some understanding of basic human cell division and consideration of such an unpleasant subject matter as cancer. Unfortunately, it appears that cancer has become such a common experience in todayís society that a basic understanding of the nature of the disorder, warning signs, and treatment options has become a necessity.

    No one expects cancer to occur in them. Cancer usually strikes suddenly and unexpectedly in a potentially life threatening fashion. Important and long-lasting decisions must be made immediately upon learning of a cancer diagnosis. Cancer is always an unpleasant surprise which must be dealt with without delay. Sometimes the decisions can be very difficult to make. Many factors are involved in determining appropriate cancer treatment. The typical treatment may involve the surgical removal of the primary cancer site and often a small amount of healthy tissue near the site. However, some cancers are not surgically removed. Lymph nodes are sometimes removed in order to determine whether the cancer has spread from its primary site. If the cancer involves a particularly aggressive type of tumor or if there is evidence that the lymph nodes have been affected, chemotherapy, radiation, or additional surgery may be required.

    Although significant advances have been made in the area of cancer research and cures have been found for many forms of cancer, the cost of the war against cancer is still being wagered by human beings in the form of surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and a great deal of stress and mental anguish. Hopefully additional genetic breakthroughs, an anti cancer vaccine or additional cures will be discovered soon. Many people think a cure may be achieved in the next few years and that new concepts that starve the blood supply to tumors in laboratory mice may also work in humans.

        At the present time, the best defense in the cancer war is a good offense. Modern medicine has made vast improvements which have greatly improved the odds that most persons will not die if the cancer is diagnosed and treated in its early stages.

    If you are still reading this page there is a good chance that you or someone you love are already dealing with cancer at the present time. As someone who has been there before, several times, my best advise to you is: Donít give up! NEVER give up! Learn about your cancer! Seek appropriate medical treatment. NOW!

    Cancer has become a very common problem for many years and established ways have been established for dealing with practically anything. Usually, the most widely accepted treatment is the best approach. If you want to try alternative medicines, herbs, or controversial treatments, make sure you donít neglect the tried and established treatments. You can learn more about cancer from an interactive health or encyclopedia CD roms or from many internet sources. Some cancer related links are listed below. As unpleasant as it may seem, all persons should consider the real possibility of cancer occurring in their lifetime.

    Because of the increase in life expectancy which results from early detection and treatment, people should learn about cancer and seek clinical examination by a qualified medical doctor whatever dealing with a potential cancer. If cancer is diagnosed, seek to aggressively treat the cancer based upon sound medical advice.

 

 
 

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