TNM Staging System

When you’re diagnosed with any kind of cancer, it’s important for both you and your doctor to understand where your cancer started, how far along it’s progressed, where it’s located, whether it has spread, and how it affects different parts of the body. For these reasons and to get a better understanding of your cancer, your doctor will need to use diagnostic testing to determine the cancer’s stage.

Here’s an overview of cancer staging:

What Is Cancer Staging?

Cancer staging is a medical examination used to find out how much cancer is in the body, where it’s located and whether it has spread. Using physical examinations, imaging scans and other test results, the doctor examines the cancer and how far it has progressed. This level of progression is known as the cancer’s stage. By determining stage, your doctor is better able to gauge your outlook and plan the best avenue of treatment to eliminate or reduce your cancer.

Why Is Cancer Staging Important?

Not only is cancer staging important to doctors in conducting research on cancer treatments in general, but it’s also essential to your individual case. By understanding your cancer’s stage, location and potential course, your doctor can:

  • Make a treatment plan based on what will work best for you personally, including surgery type, radiation or chemotherapy and follow-up care
  • Predict the possibility of the cancer returning after your initial treatment
  • Explain your diagnosis and its details fully and clearly with you and the health team that will treat you
  • Predict your chance of recovery
  • Compare different treatments among people with the same diagnosis

What Is the TNM Staging System?

While there are a few different types of cancer staging systems, doctors most commonly use the TNM staging system to understand and describe a cancer’s stage. Developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer, the TMN staging system is used to answer the following key questions based on the categories of tumor, node, and metastasis:

  • T: The tumor category focuses on the primary or original tumor, seeking to determine how large it is and where it’s located.
  • N: The node category is used to determine whether the cancer affects or has a chance of affecting the lymph nodes. Has it spread to the lymph nodes? If it has, where has it spread, and how many nodes does it impact?
  • M: The metastasis category is used to tell the extent of the cancer’s growth. Has it spread to other parts of the body? Where and how much?

Each category has a different set of notations to describe the exact conditions of the cancer’s circumstances. The TNM system also helps to determine whether any specific tumor markers or biomarkers make spreading more or less likely.

Trust Gettysburg Cancer Center

From your initial diagnosis and staging to treatment, follow-up care and everything in between, Gettysburg Cancer Center is here to provide the expert, compassionate care and home environment that will make you comfortable and confident in your cancer treatment. Contact us today for more information.

Genetic Testing for Cancer, is it the Right Decision for You?

doctor screening patient for colon cancer

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Knowing something is almost always better than not knowing. Cancer will impact one in three people over their lifetime; a statistic that suggests that contacting the deadly disease is a matter of random chance. Knowledge that one is in the “more likely to get” column can be seen as good news, resulting in closer monitoring and additional testing that could potentially lead to earlier discovery and therefore an increased chance of treatment and survival.

Most cancer risks are directly related to personal behaviors such as using tobacco or over exposure to the sun or other cancer-causing substances and activities. Family cancer syndrome (inherited cancer) can occur when inherited gene mutations that are passed from generation to generation increase the odds of contracting the disease. Only about 5% to 10% of all cancers are thought to result directly from gene mutations inherited from a parent.

Family history of the same type of cancer; cancers developing at earlier ages; multiple family members contacting identical or rare cancers or cancers experienced in multiple generations are some cancers thought to be indicative of family cancer syndrome. Cancer occurrence within close relations is more cause for concern than those in distant relationships. For some rare cancers, the risk of a family cancer syndrome is relatively high with even one case. Some types of cancers have no known mutations linked to an increased risk and others may have known mutations, but no way to test for them.

Genetic testing can be performed by either a blood or cheek swab sample and do not detect whether a person has cancer; testing indicates whether a person carries a change in one of their genes which can increase cancer risk. Most people will not benefit from genetic testing for cancer, but those who have a strong indication of family gene mutations may be able to take actions that lower the risk of the disease.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the most common genes involved in hereditary breast and ovarian cancers and a positive connection to these genes can also indicate a higher risk for other cancers, but nearly 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of the disease. No genetic test can determine whether a person will develop cancer with certainty.

The results of genetic testing can be beneficial in making medical decisions for cancer treatment, additional screening and prevention. Selecting the correct test and interpreting the results accurately can be complex, and the decision to have the test may impact personal relationships with other family members. For these reasons, the decision to undergo genetic testing is a very personal one, and one that should be made after considering all unique circumstances.

woman hiding under bed covers

Signs and Symptoms of Cancer

Cancer comes in many forms and can manifest in many places throughout the body. When it comes to cancer detection, a variety of signs and symptoms could signify a presence. While a cancer sign is a signal that’s evident to others — such as weight loss or skin changes — a cancer symptom is something patients feel themselves — such as weakness, pain or appetite changes.

Because cancer is a group of various conditions that can occur in different areas and different stages, signs and symptoms will appear in different parts of the body, affect each person differently and coincide with either multiple other symptoms or very few.

While the presence of these signs can sometimes point to cancer, having a symptom does not necessarily mean you have cancer — most of the time, in fact, they can be caused by other problems. If you’re experiencing any possible signs and symptoms of cancer and think you may need an early cancer diagnosis. Here’s what you need to know about how cancer affects the body.

How Does Cancer Cause Signals?

Cancer can cause almost any sign or symptom in any part of the body — the symptoms depend on the type of cancer, where it’s located, what stage it’s in, how big it is and what effect it has on tissues and organs. If the cancer has progressed and spread, symptoms can be felt in various places in the body at once.

When cancer grows, it begins to put pressure on the blood vessels, nerves and organs it touches, causing certain signs and symptoms based on the affected area. Sometimes, the disease causes immediate and noticeable symptoms even in its early stages when it’s small — especially in critical areas like the brain. In other circumstances, however, cancer begins in places where it won’t show symptoms until it has progressed significantly — like the pancreas.

By putting a strain on the immune system and the body’s energy supply, cancer can also have more generalized symptoms affecting nerves, muscles, and metabolism. Some symptoms may not look like they’re linked to cancer, while other symptoms that look like cancer signs may not be from cancer at all.

General Cancer Symptoms and Signs

While cancer causes many types of signs and symptoms dependant on a variety of factors, most cancers show the following signals:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pain and aching
  • Changes in skin appearance

Other symptoms specific to cancer type are various and differ based on the stage, location, and type.

Seek an Early Cancer Diagnosis With Gettysburg Cancer Center

If you’re concerned about displaying any signs and symptoms you think might be related to cancer, Gettysburg Cancer Center is here to help you every step of the way. With our expert service and compassionate care, we provide a family-friendly environment and a full range of solutions — from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up care with many options. Reach out today to make an appointment.

Availability of Oral Chemotherapy Drugs on the Rise

oral chemotherapy drugs for treatment

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When we think about chemotherapy (chemo) treatment for cancer, more often than not we harbor visions of intravenous (IV) injections of chemicals with complicated names, usually being administered in sterile medical environments with the patient surrounded by attending oncology professionals. But advances in chemotherapy drugs over the past decade are quickly changing the perceptions most of us have developed about chemotherapy and how it is administered. The fact that chemotherapy is available in oral (pill) form for numerous types of cancer is a surprise to many. In fact, an estimated 30% of cancer drugs in development are oral, and the trend is increasing.

With cancer survival rates consistently increasing over the past decade, cancer is becoming a chronic illness for cancer patients. The ability to receive extended cancer therapy protocols at home and by mouth is beneficial in time, convenience and cost that accompanies typical IV administered treatments. Oral anticancer medications (OAMs) have become available to treat many different cancers, including lung, leukemia, colorectal, kidney, and prostate and have been shown to be as effective as other forms of treatment. “The efficacy of chemotherapy pills … are similar to the traditional intravenous therapy, with research showing that the overall survival with oral chemotherapy is the same as patients would have with traditional intravenous chemotherapy,” says Dr. Hannah Luu, California-based oncologist and CEO and founder of OncoGambit.

However, OAMs shift much of the responsibility for proper administration from attending medical professionals to the patient and family members. Dr. Luu cautions, “Chemotherapy pills have the potential to cause the same serious toxicities as intravenous chemotherapy. If used incorrectly, they can potentially have fatal outcomes. It’s important for patients to be aware of their treatment plan and take their chemotherapy drugs accordingly. It’s even more important that the patient doesn’t take the missed pills with the next dose.”

Doctor appointments are still necessary with the use of OAMs, to perform regular scans or blood tests to ensure the medication is working safely and effectively. Handling of these oral medications requires careful attention as well as consistent adherence to the treatment regimen. Not skipping doses is critical to effective treatment.

A recent study showed that both providers and patients face barriers from insurance carriers on the use of OAMs. Some insurers cover OAMs as a prescription drug benefit, rather than a medical procedure. Delays in getting approval may be labor intensive and take several weeks. Out-of-pocket costs can vary and may require additional administrative support to overcome.

Gettysburg Cancer Center, a leader in oncology care across south central Pennsylvania since 1989, is dedicated to providing all-encompassing oncology and hematology programs and a complete range of diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care for patients. For more information call (717) 334-4033.