Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Word "Cancer" is Reused and Misused During Diagnoses

Let's say that after a couple of medical exams your doctor says that you have breast cancer, stage 0. How would you react?

Last month, I came across an article published in The New York Times that explains how the word "cancer" is misused over and over by doctors when diagnosing patients. In fact, some doctors tell their patients that they have cancer when the diagnosis is benign.

The article, Cancer by Any Other Name Would Not Be as Terrifying, says that "some medical experts have recommended getting rid of the word “cancer” altogether for certain conditions that may or may not be potentially fatal." In other words, if the cells identified are either abnormal or benign, but are not yet "cancerous," then there is no need for doctors to say that a patient has cancer. In my opinion, by telling patients that they have cancer when they do not have it initiates panic.

A friend of mine, a 24-year-old young woman whose name will remain anonymous, had a similar experience a year ago. She went to her gynecologist's office for a pap smear, and when the results came back, the nurse called her and said that she had to make another appointment for further exams because the results showed abnormal cells that could be cancerous.

At first, my friend was speechless, then she began to cry while talking on the phone with the nurse (I know this because I was with her that day). Her hands were shaking while tears streamed down from her face. She kept glancing at me and squeezing my hand as the nurse explained to her the situation further. All my friend could say to the nurse was if she was going to be okay. I could see the fear of cancer in her eyes; I didn't know what to do except telling her that everything was going to be fine.

What shocked me the most are my friend's words after she was done speaking with the nurse. She said to me, "Now I know what you felt like when you found out you had cancer." I was thinking to myself, "Not really because the nurse did not actually say that you have cancer." The nurse simply said that she had to go back to the doctor's office for additional medical exams because the results showed abnormal cells that could or could not lead to cancer. My friend was jumping to conclusions, but I do not blame her. That's what happens when doctors or nurses mention the word "cancer"you panic.

Long story short, the results from the additional medical exams came back negative and my friend was relieved and stress free. Although she has to make an appointment for a pap smear every six months, she is glad that she does not have cancer. I am glad too; I just cannot see people that I care about go through such an awful and painful experience.

The reason I told this story is to show how powerful the word "cancer" really is, and this is why doctors or nurses should be careful when using it. Even though my friend never had cancer, she thought she did after hearing the nurse's words. If the nurse used different words to describe the condition without mentioning the word "cancer," I am sure that my friend would not have panicked. Perhaps, medical experts should change the name of benign cancers to something less evasive that does not contain the word "cancer." This would decrease unnecessary worry and panic among patients.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Movember Raises Cancer Awareness

Have you heard of Movember?

If you have not, it is simply a movement where men do not shave their mustache during the month of November in order to raise funds and awareness for men's health, specifically prostate cancer and other types of cancers.

The movement initiated in Australia in 2004, but I became aware of it last month. I think that growing a mustache to raise funds and to promote cancer awareness is a great idea. I am sure that many men supported the movement this past November and that they will do the same next year.

Perhaps, there should be another movement where both males and females can participate in order to support cancer in general. In other words, we have breast cancer awareness in October, and now we have male cancer awareness in November. Since there are so many more types of cancers that affect both men and women, there should be a month dedicated to cancer in general aimed at both males and females. I think that would make many people happy, especially cancer patients and cancer survivors.

If you want to know more about Movember read 'Movember' Gets Hairy for a Cause by CNN or watch the video below.

"Fighting Cancer, One Mustache at a Time"

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Coping With Cancer Remission

Entering the remission state after extensive treatments and surgeries is the best news that a cancer patient could receive. However, the cancer patient might worry about any recurrence that may or may not occur. No matter what his/her thoughts are about remission, it's important that the cancer patient remains positive even after treatment because fearing that the cancer might return will just stress him/her.

I know it's difficult not asking yourself, "What if the cancer comes back?" Sometimes, I would ask myself that question too, but then I realized that I did not want to live the rest of my life wondering or being afraid that the cancer might return. I told myself that the cancer was gone and that it would never come back; I told myself that I had won the battle. I wanted to move on with my life, and leave behind the past...and I did.

After six months of being in remission, my oncologist told me that all of my blood counts were finally back to normal, and he suggested that I find something to do instead of staying at home all day. He said that I should find a job, something that it's not too stressful. He was right. I could not stay at home watching television all day.

Soon after, I found a job at a bakery near my house. It was not stressful at all; I worked a couple of hours per day (not every day), taking care of the customers and keeping the counters clean. It was an easy job for me and it slowly helped me to gain "most" of my strength back. The reason I said "most" is because after treatments, a cancer patient is not the same. He/she will eventually get his/her strength back, but not all of it. To this day, I am not as strong as I used to be before I was diagnosed with cancer. Also, I get tired easily, but that does not stop me from pursuing my goals.

Two months after I started working, I applied to a community college and I became a part-time student. I was not ready to start school full-time yet. There were still a couple of surgeries that my oncologist wanted me to get and I felt that being a full-time student would interfere with the upcoming procedures. By the end of that year, however, I was taking 12 credits. 

Although it took me a while to get back on track, I was able to succeed. I took each day step by step, and now I am exactly where I want to be...still cancer free. If I were able to do it, anybody else can do it too. All a cancer patient or cancer survivor needs is determination, positive thoughts, and belief.

For more tips read How to Cope During Cancer Remission by eHow.