Effects Of Cancer On The Body

Effects Of Cancer On The Body

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    After effects can be described as long-term or late effects of cancer and treatment. Aftereffects can range from very mild to serious. They may vary from one survivor to the next. Doctors cannot always predict if any will occur or how long-lasting they will be. Treatment can help you manage aftereffect symptoms so you can live a full and happy life. 

    Long-term effects develop during treatment and are lingering or chronic (do not go away). They continue after treatments are over. Many long-term effects improve or resolve with time such as anemia, fatigue, or anxiety (feeling worried). Some survivors may experience long-term effects that are permanent such as limb loss, weakness, or nerve damage.

    Late effects are delayed and can surface months to years after treatment ends. Generally, the earlier these problems are identified, the easier they are to treat. Some late effects are long-lasting or permanent such as certain types of heart disease or lung disease, lymphedema (swelling in a limb due to blockage of the lymph system), osteoporosis, depression, and second cancers.

    Examples of aftereffects include:
    • Physical: Fatigue, scars, or loss of limbs
    • Emotional: Anxiety or depression
    • Practical: Challenges with employment or getting health insurance
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    Cancer fatigue is a common side effect in people being treated for cancer, and may persist after treatment is completed. People with cancer fatigue will describe feeling weak, tired, exhausted, and may spend considerable time resting, therefore making it difficult to complete normal daily activities. This fatigue can significantly impact quality of life. There are many factors that may contribute to cancer fatigue. This fatigue may be a symptom of cancer or can result from cancer treatments. In addition, depression, sleep disturbances, malnutrition, and inactivity may all contribute to cancer fatigue. For this reason, an integrative cancer treatment approach may be helpful for managing cancer fatigue. Medical treatments may be helpful as well as psychosocial support, prescriptive physical activity, nutrition support, and in some cases dietary supplements.
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    There are many different causes of sexual functioning concerns in female cancer survivors. Some are physical causes. Others may be due to changes in how you feel about yourself, your body, or other aspects of your life after cancer.

    Certain types of cancer, such as those that affect sexual organs, can put survivors at risk for problems. Approximately half of survivors of breast cancer and other cancers that affect the pelvic area (such as the cervix, ovaries, uterus, bladder, colon, or vagina) develop long-term sexual problems. Yet, most problems are actually caused by treatment and not the cancer itself.

    Some ways treatment can affect sexual functioning include:
    • Chemotherapy can damage the ovaries, causing hormonal changes and temporary or permanent menopause in younger women.
    • Radiation can affect the vagina, cervix, or uterus.
    • Surgery or radiation therapy can affect cancers in the pelvic area (bladder, colorectal, cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, or vulvar cancer).
    • Side effects of medicines used to treat pain, nausea, depression, or anxiety can affect sexual functioning.
    If possible, talk with your healthcare team about the risks for problems with sexual functioning before you begin cancer treatment. There may be things that can be done to minimize risks. If you have already undergone treatment, talk with your doctor about finding ways to treat symptoms or concerns now.

    Certain emotions can also contribute to intimacy challenges such as:
    • Sad or depressed feelings
    • Concerns about being less attractive
    • Stress in the relationship with your partner
    • Difficulty with self-esteem because of physical changes
    If physical changes affect how a woman feels about herself or her body, this can also contribute to sexual problems. For example, it may be more challenging for someone who was uncomfortable with sexuality or had tension in a relationship before cancer. If you have these types of concerns, ask your doctor for a referral to a licensed counselor who has experience working with cancer survivors.
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    Metastasis: Metastasis (spreading) to other organs, such as the liver, pancreas, lungs, and lymph nodes, may occur, causing an increase chance of death. Metastasis allows cancerous cells to spread to other tissues in the body and more than one body system, causing more damage

    Pleural effusion: Pleural effusion occurs when fluid accumulates in the pleural cavity surrounding the lungs, causing shortness of breath.

    Superior vena cava syndrome: Superior vena cava syndrome occurs when cancer partially or completely blocks the superior vena cava, which is a vein that drains blood from the upper part of the body into the heart. Blockage of the superior vena cava causes the veins in the upper part of the chest and neck to swell, resulting in swelling of the face, neck, and upper part of the chest.

    Brain dysfunction: Brain dysfunction occurs when the brain functions abnormally as a result of a cancer growing within the brain, either as a primary brain cancer or more commonly as a metastasis from a cancer elsewhere in the body. Tumors may develop and put pressure on sensitive nerves and blood vessels, causing symptoms such as confusion, drowsiness, agitation, headaches, abnormal vision, abnormal sensations, weakness, nausea, vomiting, and seizures.

    Bleeding: At first, a cancer may bleed slightly because its cells are not well attached to each other and its blood vessels are fragile. Later, as the cancer enlarges and invades surrounding tissues, it may grow into a nearby blood vessel, causing bleeding. The bleeding may be slight and undetectable or detectable only with testing. Such is often the case in early-stage colon cancer. Or, particularly with advanced cancer, the bleeding may be more significant, even massive and life threatening. The site of the cancer determines the site of the bleeding. Cancer anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract can cause bleeding in the stool. Cancer anywhere along the urinary tract can cause bleeding in the urine. Other cancers can bleed into internal areas of the body. Bleeding into the lungs can cause the individual to cough up blood.

    You should read product labels, and discuss all therapies with a qualified healthcare provider. Natural Standard information does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.



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    Some of the more common services or procedures used to treat cancer-related infertility are the following:
    • Fertility Counseling -- Patients will meet with a physician to discuss their current cancer condition or status, potential treatment options and concerns.
    • Cryopreservation of Sperm -- This is the evaluation and storage of sperm. This procedure is beneficial for men who have been diagnosed with cancer before undergoing medical or surgical treatments, which result in compromised sperm production and infertility.
    • Cryopreservation of Embryos -- This is the storage of frozen embryos. Women who need cancer treatment may choose this option before beginning cancer treatment.
    • Donor Sperm and Donor Eggs -- Donor sperm can be used for patients pursuing either intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization once their cancer treatment is complete. Donor eggs can be used for women once their cancer treatment is complete and it is safe to achieve pregnancy.
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    RF energy is a form of electromagnetic radiation.

    Electromagnetic radiation can be divided into two types: Ionizing (high-frequency) and non-ionizing (low-frequency). RF energy is a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. Ionizing radiation, such as that produced by x-ray machines, can pose a cancer risk at high levels of exposure. However, it is not known whether the non-ionizing radiation emitted by cellular telephones is associated with cancer risk.

    Studies suggest that the amount of RF energy produced by cellular telephones is too low to produce significant tissue heating or an increase in body temperature. However, more research is needed to determine what effects, if any, low-level non-ionizing RF energy has on the body and whether it poses a health danger.

    This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

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    There is concern that RF energy produced by cellular phones may affect the brain and nervous system tissue in the head because hand-held cellular telephones are usually held close to the head. Researchers have focused on whether RF energy can cause malignant (cancerous) brain tumors such as gliomas (cancers of the brain that begin in glial cells, which surround and support the nerve cells), as well as benign (noncancerous) tumors, such as acoustic neuromas (tumors that arise in the cells of the nerve that supplies the ear) and meningiomas (tumors that occur in the meninges, which are the membranes that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord). The salivary glands also may be exposed to RF energy from cellular telephones held close to the head.

    This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

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    A metastasis (a deposit of tumor cells that has spread some distance away from the cancer) can occur early in the lifespan of a cancer or late in its lifespan or not at all. Some patients with very small tumors are found to already have a metastasis to an organ in a distant area of the body. Conversely, some with very large tumors are found not to have spread or "metastasized" at all. A metastasis can occur in another organ (lung cancer spread to the liver, for example) or to nearby lymph nodes (lung cancer spread to lymph nodes in the chest, for example). It is the presence or absence or such metastases (deposits of tumor cells) in lymph nodes or other organs that forms the basis of what is known as the "staging" of cancer,

    The exact staging of tumors varies somewhat depending on the specific type of cancer (there are differences between cancers found in the lung, breast, colon, etc.). However, in general the following principles are true for most cancers. Small tumors that have not spread to lymph nodes or distant organs comprise the earliest form of tumor and are termed Stage I disease. When a tumor has spread to lymph nodes right next to tumor, it is a Stage II. If metastasis is found in lymph nodes far away from the tumor it is called Stage III. Finally, if cancer deposits are found in an organ other than where the cancer started (i.e. colon cancer found in the lung) then it is called Stage IV.
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    Cancer and treatment can affect survivors in different ways. One area of life that might change is the ability to have or enjoy sex. These types of changes in women following cancer or treatment are sometimes referred to as female sexual dysfunction. The cause may be physical or emotional.

    The following may be indicators that it is time to talk with your doctor about concerns related to sex after cancer treatment:

    • Loss of desire for sex
    • Negative thoughts and feelings during sex
    • Difficulty reaching climax
    • Vaginal dryness and tightness
    • Pain during sex or when your genital area is touched.
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    Cancer survivors who experience temporary or permanent physical changes to their bodies may be at risk for having a poor body image as they learn to adjust to changes in their bodies. The effects of a temporary physical change on your body image may last for a short time. A permanent physical change may have a more lasting effect on your body image.

    Examples of temporary changes that can affect your body image:
    • Hair loss
    • Weight loss
    • Weight gain
    Examples of permanent changes that can affect your body image:
    • Amputations, such as, limbs or mastectomies where prostheses
             can be fitted
    • Permanent stomas, e.g. colostomy or ileostomy (an opening on the
             abdomen created surgically to empty contents of bowel into
             a bag)
    • Infertility
    • Scars from surgery or tattoo markings from radiation fields