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Receiving a cancer diagnosis can produce many unexpected stressors in the life of a patient and the patient’s family. Cancer Navigators Brenda Schofield and Cheri Yochum provide individualized assistance to patients, families and caregivers through all phases of the cancer experience.

Through education, referral, care coordination and maintenance of communication between patients and health care providers, Brenda and Cheri help patients overcome barriers and facilitate timely access to quality health and psychosocial care.

For more information, call 419-636-1131, ext. 12342.

What is Medical Oncology and Radiation Oncology?

The science of studying and treating malignant cancer and associated tumors is called oncology. Medical oncology is a subfield of oncology that focuses on treating cancer with medications, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy.

Radiation oncology is concerned with utilizing radiation treatment for cancer. Radiation oncologists specialize in determining various parameters regarding a patient’s radiation treatment plan–how much, how frequently and if specific types of radiation should be considered to treat cancer. Radiation oncologists work closely with radiation therapy nurses, radiation therapists, medical oncologists and other professionals collaborating on a person’s cancer treatment plan. 

What Types of Cancer Do Medical Oncologists Treat?

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

AML begins in bone marrow and quickly moves into the bloodstream where it often spreads to other parts of the body. People who smoke, are over 50, are male and long-term exposure to the solvent benzene are risk factors for AML. Some evidence suggests AML may be genetic. Symptoms of AML include bone pain, reoccurring nosebleeds (when no other cause exists), unexplained bruising and excessive night sweats. Samples of blood and bone narrow are needed to diagnose AML.

Bladder Cancer

When bladder cells start growing uncontrollably, they may form small tumors that become cancerous. In most cases, bladder cancer is diagnosed early enough to respond successfully to radiation therapy. Signs of possible bladder cancer include bloody urine, frequent and painful urination and lower back pain. The most common type of bladder cancer is transitional cell carcinoma. TCC represents over 90 percent of all bladder cancer diagnoses.

Lung Cancer

Chronic coughing, phlegm containing blood specks, wheezing and recurring respiratory infections are some signs of lung cancer. The leading cause of lung cancer in U.S. adults is smoking, followed by excessive exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke and/or air pollution. Diagnosing lung cancer involves radiologists taking CT scans or x-rays of the lungs to detect signs of possible tumors or lesions. If a lung lesion is detected, a biopsy will be performed to determine if it is cancerous.

Brain Tumors

A brain tumor may originally develop in the brain or spread to the brain from elsewhere in the body. Nearly 50 percent of all malignant brain tumors are glioblastomas. While less than one percent of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with a brain tumor, the risk of having one increases with ageExtremely rare genetic disorders are associated with brain tumors but there is no clear evidence that brain tumors are hereditary. Symptoms of a possible brain tumor include recurring headaches increasing in severity, unexplained vomiting, vision, hearing and speech problems and balance difficulties.

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma happens when cancer cells are found in the bone marrow, spleen and/or lymph nodes. A vital network of glands and fluids that support the immune system, the lymph system transports infection-fighting white blood cells throughout the body. Early symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma involve extreme fatigue, frequent illnesses, coughing and weight loss. A diagnosis of Stage I non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma means cancer has only impacted one lymph node. Stage II means cancer has affected multiple lymph nodes. Stage III involves cancer moving into lymph nodes below and above the diaphragm. Stage IV indicates non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that has metastasized.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer for U.S. women over the age of 30. Nearly 65 percent of breast cancer detected by mammograms are localized, meaning the cancer has not moved outside the breast. Although breast cancer is sometimes genetic, many women developing breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease. Symptoms of breast cancer involve lumps in the breast, changes to nipple appearance and reddened, scaly or swollen breast skin.

Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer affects more men than women worldwide and is the sixth leading cause of cancer deaths globally. Smoking, excessive alcohol use, age and obesity increase your risk of having esophageal cancer. Symptoms of this disease include difficulty swallowing, chronic coughing and hoarseness, chest pain, vomiting and weight loss.

Prostate Cancer

With the exception of melanoma, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in men. Problems urinating, blood in the semen or urine and pain in the lower back, hips or chest. Some men may experience erectile dysfunction if they have prostate cancer. A biopsy is typically performed to determine if a man has prostate cancer. A standard rating system called the Gleason Score is used to determine severity of biopsy results. Scores of two, three, four and five indicate the cancer is not likely spread. Scores above five point to possible spreading of the cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer develops in the form of two types of tumors: endocrine or exocrine. Exocrine pancreatic cancer affects cells involved in releasing digestive chemicals. Endocrine pancreatic cancer targets cells that produce insulin. Exocrine tumors are more common than endocrine tumors. Symptoms of pancreatic cancer include jaundice, stomach pain, back pain, nausea and vomiting and bloating. Imaging tests and biopsies are needed to diagnose pancreatic cancer.

Colorectal (colon/rectum) Cancer

Cancer of the rectum or colon begins as small growths called polyps that eventually enlarge and spread to other parts of the body without treatment. More commonly diagnosed in adults over 50, colorectal cancer can affect the rectum, the colon or both. Signs of colorectal cancer include weakness, tiredness, weight loss, bloody stools, rectal bleeding and abdominal pain. CHWC recommends that all adults over 50 consider getting an annual screening for colorectal cancer.

Chrondosarcoma

Chondrosarcoma is a “primary” bone cancer, meaning the cancer originates from one or more bones instead of somewhere else in the body. Initially developing in cartilage cells, chondrosarcoma is mostly seen in the pelvis, spine and thighbone (femur). The risk of chondrosarcoma increases with age. However, chondrosarcoma is genetic and requires a person carry certain genetic mutations for this type of bone cancer.

Melanoma (Skin Cancer)

Signs of probably skin cancer involve changes in mole shapes or sizes, bleeding moles and painful skin lesions that burn or itch. Risk of skin cancer is higher among people who tan, spend hours in the sun without using UV protectant, have fair skin and a family history of melanoma. If a doctor suspects a mole or skin lesion is cancerous, they will evaluate a tissue biopsy for signs of abnormal cell growth. Ultrasound tests may be needed if a doctor thinks melanoma may have spread elsewhere in the body.

FAQs

Cancer can impact so many lives, from the people who are diagnosed to the loved ones who help manage their care. Luckily, with increased technology, there are now more options than ever before when it comes to treating cancer. Working closely with your team of doctors you will be able to create a custom care plan that helps to manage, and possibly cure, your cancer. Of course, you may have several questions when it comes to care during this frightening and uncertain time. Below, we have put together a list of some commonly asked questions when it comes to cancer care.

What kind of treatment will I receive?
Really, this depends on the type of cancer you are diagnosed with, how much the cancer has spread, and your current health. Some cancers respond to certain treatments better than others, and any existing conditions may impact the type of treatment you are able to receive.

Can’t you just perform surgery and remove all the cancer?
In some cases, yes, this is possible. The surgical team will be able to discuss different surgery procedures that can remove a cancerous tumor from the body. In other types of cancer though this is not possible, or results in a complicated surgery. Cancers that impact the blood, such as Leukemia, are not operable.

If I had surgery already, why do I need more treatment?
While surgery certainly does a great job at removing certain cancers, it always runs the rusk of leaving some cancerous cells behind. By using chemotherapy or radiation treatment methods after surgery doctors can be sure to kill every cancerous cell.

Will chemotherapy make me sick?

There are many different types of chemotherapy offering a range of medicine types and dosage amounts. People will respond differently to different treatments, so it is hard to say if you will feel sick. Every person handles chemotherapy differently.

What other treatments are available besides chemotherapy and radiation?
Our team is always researching and practicing the very latest treatment options available for cancer. Our team can implement hormone therapy treatment as well as immunotherapy treatment to target and attack your cancer.

Will I lose my hair during treatment?
While hair loss certainly is a common side effect when receiving chemotherapy treatment, it doesn’t happen to everyone. The type of chemotherapy, duration, frequency, and your own body will dictate how and if you lose your hair. Feel free to talk with one of our professionals about options if you do lose your hair. We have several close contacts to provide wigs for people suffering from hair loss.

What is the difference between chemotherapy and radiation?
Chemotherapy administers specific drugs into the entire body in an attempt to mitigate and kill cancer cells. Comparatively, radiation uses nuclear medicine technology to target one specific area of the body. Patients may receive one treatment or the other, and sometimes a combination of both treatments.

Who will be my doctor?
One of the best parts of working with Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers is the fact that we work with an oncology team. A group of professional doctors and nurses are always talking with one another about your case, researching and discussing the best treatment, surgery, and care options available for your specific cancer.

What else can cancer impact?
We understand that cancer is not just a physical ailment that you experience, but a mental and psychological one too. Cancer can change your mindset, easily allowing people to become anxious and depressed. That is why we are happy to offer psychological care to accompany your physical cancer treatments. A healthy mind can do wonders when it comes to healing the body.