Cancer FAQs

What is cancer? 

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells, which can form tumors or invade nearby tissues. There are many types of cancer, each with its unique characteristics.

How is cancer diagnosed? 

The specific diagnostic approach depends on the type and location of the suspected cancer. Cancer diagnosis typically involves:

  • Physical examinations.
  • Imaging tests (e.g., X-rays, MRI, CT scans).
  • Biopsies.
  • Laboratory tests (e.g., blood tests).

What causes cancer? 

Cancer is caused by changes (mutations) in a cell's DNA, which can be inherited or acquired due to exposure to various environmental factors such as radiation, chemicals, or viruses. Lifestyle factors like tobacco use, unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity can also contribute to cancer risk.

What are the different stages of cancer? 

Cancer stages typically range from stage 0 (zero) (precancerous or in situ) to stage IV (advanced or metastatic). Staging is based on factors such as tumor size, lymph node involvement, and the presence of distant metastases.

What are the main types of cancer treatment? 

The appropriate treatment depends on the type and stage of cancer and the patient's overall health. Cancer treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy, and stem cell transplantation.

What is chemotherapy? 

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. It may be used alone or in combination with other treatments like surgery or radiation therapy.

What is radiation therapy? 

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy rays (e.g., X-rays, gamma rays) to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. It can be delivered externally (external beam radiation) or internally (brachytherapy).

What is immunotherapy? 

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses the patient's immune system to fight cancer. It can involve the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors, adoptive cell therapy, or cancer vaccines.

What is targeted therapy? 

Targeted therapy is a cancer treatment specifically targeting proteins or other molecules involved in cancer growth and progression. Targeted therapy allows for a more precise and potentially less toxic approach than traditional chemotherapy.

What is hormone therapy? 

Hormone therapy is a cancer treatment that targets hormones or hormone receptors to slow or stops the growth of hormone-sensitive cancers, such as certain breast and prostate cancers.

What are the side effects of cancer treatment? 

Side effects vary depending on the specific treatment but may include fatigue, pain, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and skin changes. Most side effects can be managed with supportive care and medications.

How long does cancer treatment last? 

The duration of cancer treatment depends on the type and stage of cancer and the specific treatment plan. Some treatments may last for weeks, while others may continue for months or even years.

Will I be able to work during treatment? 

Many patients are able to work during cancer treatment, but this depends on the type and intensity of the treatment, as well as the individual's overall health and job demands.

How will cancer treatment affect my fertility? 

Some cancer treatments can temporarily or permanently affect fertility. It's essential to discuss fertility preservation options with your healthcare team before starting treatment.

What is the risk of cancer recurrence? 

The risk of cancer recurrence depends on the type and stage of cancer and the success of the initial treatment. Regular follow-up care and monitoring are essential to detect and treat any recurrence promptly.

How can I reduce my risk of cancer recurrence? 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, not smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption, can help reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. It's also important to follow your healthcare team's recommendations for follow-up care and monitoring.

What is a clinical trial? 

A clinical trial is a research study that evaluates new treatments, diagnostic methods, or prevention strategies. Participating in a clinical trial can give patients access to cutting-edge treatments and contribute to advancing medical knowledge.

What is palliative care? 

Palliative care is specialized medical care aimed at providing relief from the symptoms and stress of a serious illness, including cancer. It focuses on improving the quality of life for patients and their families and can be provided alongside curative treatments.

How can I manage the emotional impact of cancer? 

Seeking support from friends, family, support groups, or a professional therapist can help with the emotional challenges of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Your healthcare team can also provide resources and guidance on coping strategies.

How can I manage the financial impact of cancer? 

Discussing your financial concerns with your healthcare team can help identify available resources and financial assistance programs. Social workers or financial counselors can help navigate insurance coverage and payment options.

What is metastatic cancer? 

Metastatic cancer is cancer that has spread from its original location to other parts of the body. This advanced stage of cancer is generally more challenging to treat and often requires a combination of therapies.

What is the difference between benign and malignant tumors? 

Benign tumors are non-cancerous growths that do not invade nearby tissues or spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors are cancerous and can grow into nearby tissues or spread to distant organs.

What is a second opinion, and should I get one? 

A second opinion is an evaluation by another healthcare professional to confirm or clarify a diagnosis or treatment plan. Obtaining a second opinion can provide reassurance and additional information, especially in complex cases or when considering treatment options.

What is cancer remission? 

Cancer remission is when cancer signs and symptoms have decreased or disappeared, and the disease is under control. Remission can be partial or complete, and its duration varies depending on the type of cancer and the effectiveness of treatment.

What is cancer survivorship? 

Cancer survivorship refers to the experience of living with, through, and beyond cancer. It includes ongoing follow-up care, addressing long-term side effects, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to prevent recurrence or new cancers.

How can I maintain a healthy lifestyle after cancer treatment? 

Adopting a healthy lifestyle after cancer treatment involves regular exercise, a balanced diet, not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and managing stress. Regular follow-up care is also essential to monitor for any signs of recurrence.

What is a multidisciplinary cancer care team? 

A multidisciplinary cancer care team is a group of healthcare professionals with different areas of expertise who collaborate to develop and implement a comprehensive treatment plan for a cancer patient. This team may include oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, nurses, and other specialists.

How do I choose the right cancer specialist for my care? 

Choosing the right cancer specialist involves researching and considering factors such as the doctor's experience, specialization, insurance coverage, and treatment philosophy. Seeking recommendations from your primary care physician, friends, or family members can also be helpful.

What is the role of a cancer patient navigator? 

A cancer patient navigator is a professional who helps patients and their families navigate the complex healthcare system, providing support and guidance throughout the cancer journey, from diagnosis to survivorship or end-of-life care.

What is the prognosis for my type of cancer? 

Prognosis varies significantly depending on the type and stage of cancer and individual factors such as age, overall health, and response to treatment. Your healthcare team can provide more specific information about your prognosis based on your unique situation.

Can alternative or complementary therapies help treat cancer? 

Alternative therapies are treatments used instead of conventional medicine, while complementary therapies are used alongside standard treatments. Some complementary therapies, such as acupuncture or meditation, can help manage side effects and improve overall well-being. However, discussing alternative or complementary therapies with your healthcare team is essential to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your situation.

What are the long-term side effects of cancer treatment? 

Long-term side effects of cancer treatment can vary depending on the specific treatment and individual factors. Some common long-term side effects may include fatigue, nerve damage, hormonal changes, and cognitive changes. Discussing potential long-term side effects with your healthcare team and reporting any ongoing issues is crucial to minimizing long-term effects.

How often will I need follow-up care after completing cancer treatment? 

Follow-up care schedules vary depending on the type and stage of cancer and the specific treatments received. Your healthcare team will provide a personalized follow-up plan, which may include regular physical exams, imaging tests, and blood tests.

Are there any dietary changes I should make during or after cancer treatment? 

A balanced diet is essential for overall health and can help manage side effects during and after cancer treatment. Specific dietary recommendations may depend on the type of cancer, treatment, and individual nutritional needs. A registered dietitian can provide personalized guidance and support.

What resources are available to help me cope with the challenges of living with cancer? 

Numerous resources can help with the challenges of living with cancer, including support groups, educational materials, financial assistance programs, and counseling services. Your healthcare team can provide guidance on appropriate resources based on your specific needs and circumstances.

How can I advocate for myself during cancer treatment?

Being an active participant in your cancer care is crucial. This includes asking questions, staying informed about your diagnosis and treatment options, and communicating your preferences and concerns with your healthcare team. Seeking support from loved ones or a patient advocate can also be helpful in ensuring your needs are met.

How can I help a friend or family member who has been diagnosed with cancer?

Providing emotional support, practical assistance, and understanding can be invaluable for someone facing a cancer diagnosis. Offer a listening ear, help with daily tasks, or accompany them to appointments. Additionally, educating yourself about their specific type of cancer can help you better understand and support their journey.

How can I support cancer research?

Donating to reputable cancer research organizations, participating in fundraising events, or advocating for increased research funding are some ways you can support cancer research. If you are a cancer patient or survivor, you may also consider participating in clinical trials to help advance the development of new treatments and diagnostic methods.

How do I find information about my specific type of cancer?

Reputable organizations, such as the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, or cancer-specific advocacy groups, can provide information about various types of cancer. Additionally, your healthcare team is an invaluable resource for information and guidance specific to your diagnosis.

What is a cancer care plan, and why is it important?

A cancer care plan is a document that outlines your diagnosis, treatment plan, and long-term care recommendations. It serves as a roadmap for your cancer journey, helping you and your healthcare team stay organized and informed. A well-documented care plan can also facilitate communication among your healthcare providers and ensure everyone is on the same page regarding your treatment and follow-up care.


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