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Cancer 101: Understanding the basics

“You have cancer.”

Dayton Physicians NetworkThose are the words that no one wants to hear from their doctor. Unfortunately, far too many do.

According to The American Cancer Society, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer were expected to be diagnosed in the United States in the last year alone.

The good news is that, with early diagnosis and treatment, the number of people living beyond a cancer diagnosis is expected to rise to almost 19 million by 2024 (up from nearly 14.5 million in 2014).

Dayton Physicians NetworkKnowledge is power
One of the scariest things about being diagnosed with cancer is all the unknowns. Gaining some understanding about the various stages of cancer and how it’s generally treated can go a long way toward alleviating some of the fear and anxiety.

Cancer staging
“Staging helps doctors to know where a cancer is located, if and where it has spread, and whether it is affecting other parts of the body,” explained Mark Marinella, MD, FACP, a specialist in the hematology and medical oncology department of the Dayton Physicians Network. “With this information, doctors can plan a course of treatment, including the type of surgery and whether chemotherapy or radiation are needed.”

Most cancers have four stages: stage I (one) to IV (four), with four being the most advanced.

  • Stage I: Often called early-stage, Stage I is usually a small cancer or tumor that has not grown too deeply into nearby tissue and also has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
  • Stage II and III: These stages indicate larger cancers or tumors that have grown more deeply into nearby tissue and may have also spread to lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body.
  • Stage IV: Also called advanced or metastatic cancer, this stage indicates that the cancer has spread to other organs or parts of the body

Treatment
“Treatments for cancer vary greatly, with the most common being surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The stage of the cancer will help to determine the best course of treatment,” said Dr. Marinella.

  • Surgery can be used to take out the cancer (tumor) and occasionally to remove some or all of the body part(s) affected by the cancer.
  • Chemotherapy (also called “chemo”) is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells or slow down their growth. It can be given intravenously or as pills to swallow. Chemotherapy treatment is useful in treating cancers that have spread.
  • Radiation also is used to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells and can be used alone or with surgery or chemo. Having radiation treatment is similar to getting an x-ray.
  • Immunotherapy: Newer drugs, called “checkpoint inhibitors,” are now available that stimulate the immune system to fight cancers such as melanoma, lung cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, and head and neck cancers.
  • Targeted therapies are antibody treatments and other oral drugs that attack a certain abnormality in the cancer cell.

Dayton Physicians Network

During diagnosis, Dayton Physicians Network routinely checks genomic profiling on many patient tumors. This procedure looks for genetic changes and abnormalities that may help determine a course of treatment and allows DPN to find trials in which a patient can participate.

Should I get a second opinion?
“Unless a patient really wants one, I generally don’t recommend it,” said Dr. Marinella. “Where I might recommend a second opinion is more of a physician-driven thing. For example, if I see something that is very rare or if a patient has received all the treatment I can give, I might consult with another physician on a possible clinical trial.”

The diverse areas of expertise and specialties in cancer care that exist among the doctors, as well as the access they have to cutting-edge technology and clinical trials, allows Dayton Physicians Network to provide patients with timely and comprehensive, patient-centered care. In addition, with 13 practice locations from Greenville to Middletown, patients can receive cutting-edge cancer care while remaining close to home.

Click here to learn more about Dayton Physicians Network cancer care, or call 937-293-1622937-293-1622.

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