Med-Surg Immune System, part 8: Cancer - Signs, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

by Cathy Parkes October 05, 2020

In this video

Definition of cancer

Pathophysiology of cancer

  • Initiation
  • Promotion
  • Progression

Cancer risk factors

Cancer signs & symptoms

Cancer diagnosis

Cancer treatment

  • Medications for cancer
  • Procedures to treat cancer

Cancer & cancer treatment complications

Full Transcript

Alright! In this video, I'm going to start talking about cancer. If you are following along with cards, I'm on card 18 [in the Immune System section of our Medical-Surgical Nursing Flashcards].

And in this video, I'm going to talk about cancer in general. So I'll discuss the pathophysiology behind cancer. I'll discuss the risk factors, the signs and symptoms, the diagnosis, treatment, and complications associated with cancer in general. Then in my subsequent videos, I will go into more details about specific cancers.

Cancer is a disease characterized by DNA damage that causes abnormal cell growth and development.

The pathophysiology behind cancer, it really involves three processes. The first is initiation, then promotion, then progression.

During initiation, damage or mutation to the DNA causes excessive cell division. And this is because we have excessive oncogene function but decreased suppressor gene function. So I'll use a car analogy. So if you're driving a car and your gas is the oncogene, so it makes you go faster, and then your brake is your suppressor gene. So with cancer, your gas is basically stuck to the floor and your brake doesn't work. So oncogene function is getting crazy and there's no break. So there's limited suppressor gene function, and that's what happens during initiation.

Then, we have promotion. So during promotion, mutated cells are exposed to promoters that enhance their growth. So, estrogen is an example of a promoter that will promote the further development of certain types of cancer.

Then we have progression. So with progression, tumor cells acquire additional mutations, and their growth rate increases. This allows them to metastasize, so basically, spread throughout the body and makes them resistant to therapy.

Risk factors that place an individual at high risk for cancer include older age, genetics, immunosuppression, viruses, smoking, sun exposure, and a high-fat, low-fiber diet.

Signs and symptoms, so general signs and symptoms of cancer can include unexplained weight loss, fatigue, pain, infection, and bleeding.

As far as diagnosis of cancer, a biopsy is going to be our gold standard for diagnosing cancer. Other diagnostic tools can include MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound as well.

For treatment, in terms of medications, we can use chemotherapy, which is used to destroy rapidly dividing cells. It's administered through an implanted port or through a central line. We can also give the patient hormonal therapy and immunotherapy as well.

And then, other procedures that can be used include radiation and then surgery to remove the tumor, so tumor excision.

Complications are very common with cancer and the treatment of cancer. So potential and common complications include malnutrition, infection, mucositis, which is inflammation and ulceration of the mucosa in the mouth, anemia, thrombocytopenia, and alopecia. Alopecia is loss of hair.

So we will talk through nursing care of most of those complications in my subsequent videos. So in the next video, we will dig into tumor classification. So hang in there with me and I'll see you soon!

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