What Is Cancer?

what is cancer

What Is Cancer?

Cancer is a complex group of diseases characterized primarily by the uncontrollable growth and spread of abnormal cells. The body is made up of trillions of cells that grow, divide, and die in an orderly fashion. During the early years of a person’s life, normal cells divide more rapidly, allowing the individual to grow. However, in adult life, cells mostly divide to replace old or damaged cells.

Cancer disrupts this process and leads to abnormal growth of cells because the damaged cells survive instead of dying, and new cells form even when they are not needed. These extra cells can divide without stopping and may form growths called tumors. Not all cancers form tumors; cancers like leukemia involve abnormal cell activity generally in the blood and blood-forming organs and circulate through other tissues where they grow.

Cancer has the ability to spread to nearby organs, tissues, and, ultimately, to other parts of the body through a process called metastasis. There are several types of cancer, including breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, lymphoma, and leukemia, among others. The different types of cancer can vary wildly in their prognosis and the type of treatment required.

What Causes Cancer?

Cancer is caused by changes to the DNA within cells that dictate cellular function, usually as a result of a series of mutations over time. The causes of these mutations can be numerous, including inherited factors, lifestyle factors like diet and smoking, environmental influences such as exposure to harmful chemicals and radiation, and infections from certain viruses and bacteria.

Lifestyle factors are the leading causes of cancer and are often the most preventable. These include tobacco use, which is the single largest preventable cause of cancer globally, and dietary factors, including a lack of physical activity and being overweight. Moreover, alcohol use, harmful sun exposure, and exposure to carcinogens in the environment, like asbestos and benzene, can increase the risk of developing cancer.

Apart from environmental and lifestyle factors, there are inherited genetic mutations that can increase the risk of cancer, although these represent a smaller fraction of cancer cases. For instance, mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are known to increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Furthermore, age is another significant risk factor as the risk of developing cancer increases with age, probably due to a build-up of risks for specific cancers that increase with age and the decrease in the body’s ability to repair genetic damage.

Stages of Cancer (Tumor) and How Staging Is Defined

Staging is a pivotal process in understanding the extent of cancer, or its progression, in a patient’s body. It involves determining the size of the tumor and the extent of its spread in other areas of the body. This information is vital in devising a robust treatment plan and to prognosticate the likely outcome or the course the disease might take. Typically, cancer stages are denoted as stages 0 through IV, with stage 0 indicating cancer that is still localized in its place of origin, and stage IV representing advanced cancer that has spread to distant parts of the body.

Staging can involve various techniques including physical examinations, imaging tests such as MRIs and CT scans, and laboratory tests. Moreover, pathological staging which involves the microscopic examination of tissue samples obtained during surgery gives the most accurate picture of a cancer’s stage. The TNM system is generally adopted worldwide, which categorizes cancer stages based on the tumor size (T), the involvement of nearby lymph nodes (N), and the presence of distant metastasis (M). The combination of these elements, assessed individually, provides a comprehensive picture of the cancer stage. Understanding the precise stage of cancer facilitates targeted therapy, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of the treatment and improving the chances of recovery.

Cancer in the World

Cancer stands as one of the leading causes of death worldwide, with varying prevalence and types in different regions due to diverse genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. According to the World Health Organization, the global cancer burden is expected to increase 60% by 2040, which signals a pressing need for preventative measures and early detection strategies.

In developed nations, there is a higher incidence of breast, prostate, and colon cancers, largely attributed to lifestyle factors, including diet and physical activity, and better screening programs. In contrast, developing nations face a higher burden of cancers associated with infections, such as liver and stomach cancers, partly due to inadequate healthcare infrastructure and prevention programs.

Cancer disparities across the globe also extend to access to treatment and survival outcomes, with developed countries having better access to advanced therapies and hence better survival rates. The high cost of cancer treatment, coupled with limited access to healthcare facilities in low-to-middle-income countries, exacerbates the global inequality in cancer control and management.

What Is Oncology?

Oncology is the branch of medicine dedicated to the study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer. It is a field characterized by the unceasing research into the various types of cancers that affect the human body, with a focus on understanding their genesis, progression, and impact on the human body. Oncologists, the doctors specializing in this field, work tirelessly to treat and manage the condition of patients afflicted with cancer.

Their role is multi-faceted involving not only the treatment of cancer but also advising patients on the possible outcomes of various treatments and guiding them on the rigorous path of managing the symptoms and the side effects of cancer treatments. Beyond the clinical responsibilities, oncologists also engage in research to develop new treatment strategies and are often involved in clinical trials to test the effectiveness of new therapies.

What Academic Fields Deal with Oncology?

The arena of oncology is expansive, drawing from various academic fields to foster a comprehensive approach to cancer treatment and research. Medicine stands as the cornerstone in the field of oncology, providing the primary pathway to becoming an oncologist through extensive education in medical school followed by specialization in oncology.

Besides medicine, the field of biology plays a critical role in understanding the fundamental mechanisms underlying the growth and spread of cancer cells. The insights derived from biological research lay the groundwork for developing innovative cancer therapies.

Furthermore, the field of chemistry, particularly biochemistry, plays an indispensable role in oncology, contributing to the development of drugs used in chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and other treatment modalities. Through the manipulation of molecules and the understanding of chemical interactions, new pathways to treat cancer are continuously explored.

Physics, too, has a part to play, especially in the domain of radiation oncology, where principles of physics are utilized to develop technologies for cancer treatment using radiation therapy. Moreover, the field of nuclear medicine, a subset of oncology, relies heavily on physics for diagnostic and therapeutic procedures involving radioactive materials.

FAQs About Cancer and Oncology Therapy

Understanding that you or a loved one may be facing cancer can be incredibly daunting. It is a time filled with uncertainty and numerous questions. To assist you during this time, we have compiled answers to some frequently asked questions that arise regarding cancer and oncology therapy.

What should I do if cancer is thought to exist or is confirmed?

If there is a suspicion or confirmation of cancer, the first step is to gather as much information as possible about the type and stage of the disease. This involves working closely with a healthcare team of doctors and specialists who will carry out a series of tests and evaluations. Getting a second opinion from another oncologist can also be a prudent step to ensure that all angles are being considered when diagnosing and devising a treatment plan.

Moreover, it is essential to communicate openly with your healthcare provider, asking all necessary questions to understand your condition better and to be mentally prepared for the journey ahead. Connecting with support groups or individuals who have gone through similar experiences can be comforting. Above all, it is vital to take time to process the information, avoid rushing decisions, and to prioritize your well-being.

How should I choose my course of treatment when there are so many recommendations?

Choosing a course of treatment amid a myriad of recommendations can indeed be overwhelming. A collaborative discussion with your healthcare team, which would typically include oncologists, radiologists, and surgeons, can guide you in understanding the potential benefits and drawbacks of different treatment options.

Additionally, considering your personal preferences, the stage and type of cancer, your general health condition, and the side effects of the recommended treatments can influence your decision. It might be beneficial to research and gather information from credible sources about the suggested treatments.

If faced with multiple viable options, creating a chart comparing the pros and cons of each recommendation can be a practical approach to visualize the potential impact of each treatment pathway. It is also worthwhile to consider the logistical aspects, such as the duration of treatment, costs, and the proximity of the healthcare facility.

In some cases, patients opt to participate in clinical trials, which can potentially offer access to innovative treatments not yet available to the broader public. These trials are crucial in advancing cancer research, but they come with their own set of uncertainties, including unpredicted side effects.

What will my cancer therapy entail for me?

Embarking on a cancer therapy journey is a deeply personal experience, and what it entails can vary significantly from one individual to another. Generally, cancer therapy involves a multidimensional approach that could encompass surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these based on the type and stage of cancer.

During the treatment phase, one can expect regular medical evaluations, including physical examinations and other diagnostic tests to monitor the progress of the treatment. Apart from physical alterations, therapy could also induce emotional and psychological changes, and it is integral to have a support system in place, possibly including mental health professionals, to navigate this period more effectively.

Patients are encouraged to maintain open communication with their healthcare providers to discuss any concerns or side effects experienced during the treatment. It is a time to prioritize one’s well-being, embracing lifestyle changes that could potentially aid in better managing the side effects and improving the quality of life.

What departments are engaged in the treatment of cancer?

In the complex landscape of cancer treatment, various departments come together to offer a cohesive and comprehensive treatment approach. Primarily, the departments involved are oncology, which further divides into medical oncology, surgical oncology, and radiation oncology, each specializing in different types of cancer treatments.

Pathology department plays a pivotal role in diagnosing cancer through the examination of tissue and cell samples. Radiology is involved in diagnosing and staging the cancer, utilizing various imaging techniques such as MRI, CT scans, and X-rays. The nuclear medicine department might also be engaged in both the diagnostic and treatment processes, offering therapies that involve radioactive substances.

In addition to these, departments such as palliative care focus on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the cancer experience. Psychological services are also integral to address the mental health concerns that arise during the treatment. Nutritional departments might be involved in guiding patients on proper nutrition to help them maintain strength and cope with treatment side effects.

Do all three treatmentssurgery radiation, and chemotherapyhave to be used?

The necessity to use all three primary treatments — surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy — depends largely on the specific circumstances surrounding a person’s cancer diagnosis including the type, stage, and location of cancer, as well as the individual’s overall health status.

In early-stage cancers, surgery alone might be sufficient to remove the tumor. In other cases, a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy might be recommended to ensure the complete eradication of cancer cells. Sometimes, radiation and chemotherapy are used as neoadjuvant treatments to shrink the tumor before surgery.

Is it harmful to go under the knife?

Surgery, often referred to colloquially as “going under the knife,” is a common treatment method for various health issues, including cancer. Whether it is harmful or not is contingent upon a variety of factors such as the individual’s overall health condition, the complexity of the surgery, and the skill of the surgical team.

Like all medical procedures, surgery comes with its inherent risks, including complications such as infections, bleeding, and adverse reactions to anesthesia. Moreover, depending upon the site and extent of the surgery, there can be functional alterations or impairments post-surgery.

However, it is essential to note that surgeries are often a crucial component in the treatment protocol, especially in cases of solid tumors where it offers the best chance of removing the malignancy entirely. Surgical interventions have evolved to become increasingly precise and less invasive, with advancements like laparoscopic and robotic surgeries reducing the risk of complications and promoting quicker recovery.

Before deciding on surgery, a thorough evaluation of the risks and benefits is undertaken by the medical team, and patients are encouraged to discuss their concerns openly to make an informed decision. Therefore, while there are risks associated with going under the knife, it is not inherently harmful and can often be a life-saving intervention.

How is the sequence of treatments decided upon?

Determining the sequence of treatments in a cancer therapy regimen is a meticulous process that considers various factors including the type and stage of the cancer, the patient’s physical condition, and the objective of the treatment, which can be curative or palliative.

Typically, the decision is made by a multidisciplinary team of specialists who bring their collective expertise to formulate the most effective treatment strategy. In some cases, surgery is the first step to remove the primary tumor, followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy to eliminate any remaining cancer cells and prevent recurrence. This approach is called adjuvant therapy.

On the other hand, there are instances where chemotherapy or radiation therapy is administered before surgery to shrink the tumor to a more manageable size, facilitating a more effective surgical removal. This approach is known as neoadjuvant therapy.

Chemotherapy—is it necessary?

Chemotherapy, a treatment regimen that involves administering drugs to kill cancer cells, often stands as a vital pillar in the cancer treatment landscape. Its necessity is dictated by several factors including the type, stage, and aggressiveness of the cancer. For some patients, chemotherapy might be the cornerstone of treatment, either as a standalone approach or in combination with other treatments like surgery and radiation therapy.

Often, chemotherapy serves different roles; it can be employed before surgery to shrink a tumor (neoadjuvant chemotherapy), or after surgery to destroy any lingering cancer cells and prevent recurrence (adjuvant chemotherapy). In advanced stages of cancer where cure is not a plausible goal, chemotherapy might be used to slow down the progression of the disease and alleviate symptoms, enhancing the patient’s quality of life.

While chemotherapy comes with its set of side effects including hair loss, fatigue, and susceptibility to infections, it is often a necessary intervention that aims to maximize the chances of recovery and survival. The decision to administer chemotherapy is taken after a careful consideration of its potential benefits and drawbacks, and it remains a deeply individualized choice, designed to cater to the specific nuances of a person’s cancer journey.

How and when is the procedure?

Chemotherapy procedures involve the administration of cancer-fighting drugs through various routes such as orally, intravenously, or through intramuscular injections. The specific procedure and timing are anchored on the treatment plan crafted by the oncology team.

The frequency and duration of chemotherapy sessions vary; some patients might receive chemotherapy daily, weekly, or even monthly, with breaks in between cycles to allow the body to recover. The administration can take place in different settings, including hospitals, clinics, or at home, depending on the complexity of the treatment regimen and the patient’s health condition.

Timings can be influenced by a range of factors including the type of cancer, the goal of treatment, and how the individual responds to the therapy. Throughout the process, ongoing assessments are conducted to gauge the efficacy of the treatment and to make necessary adjustments, aiming to foster the most favorable outcomes while mitigating adverse effects.

What exactly is radiotherapy, and how does it work?

Radiotherapy is a treatment modality that uses high-energy rays or particles to target and destroy cancer cells. It works by damaging the DNA of cancer cells, hindering their ability to grow and divide, eventually leading to their death. It is a localized treatment, meaning it targets specific areas of the body where the tumor is located, sparing the surrounding healthy tissues to the greatest extent possible.

There are different forms of radiotherapy including external beam radiotherapy, which involves directing a beam of radiation onto the tumor from outside the body, and brachytherapy, where radioactive material is placed inside the body, close to the tumor.

The planning phase before the initiation of radiotherapy is critical, involving detailed mapping to delineate the exact area to be treated, to ensure maximum efficacy while minimizing harm to healthy tissues. This treatment can be utilized as a standalone therapy or in conjunction with other treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy, playing a versatile role in the cancer treatment journey, either aiming for a cure or offering palliative relief in advanced stages of the disease.

How can I use complementary therapies or integrated medicine?

In the realm of healthcare, the use of complementary therapies or integrated medicine refers to the incorporation of alternative therapeutic approaches alongside standard medical treatments. Patients often turn to these therapies to manage symptoms, reduce side effects of mainstream treatments, and improve overall well-being. These might include practices such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, herbal medicine, and nutritional supplements.

To employ complementary therapies or integrated medicine effectively, it is critical to have open and ongoing conversations with your healthcare provider to ensure that these therapies do not interfere with your primary treatment plan. Additionally, sourcing information from reliable resources and consulting certified practitioners in the respective complementary therapy fields is essential.

In this patient-centered approach, individuals are encouraged to actively participate in their healthcare decisions, fostering a holistic perspective that nurtures not only the physical but also the emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of well-being, aiming for a harmonious integration that uplifts the quality of life during the treatment process.

What does “smart medicine” entail, and how is it decided where to use it?

“Smart medicine” refers to a modern approach in healthcare that leverages technological advancements and data analytics to enhance the precision and effectiveness of medical interventions. It entails the use of tools like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data to analyze complex medical data, enabling individualized treatment strategies.

Deciding where to use “smart medicine” is a complex process that takes into consideration various factors such as the healthcare facility’s infrastructure, the complexity of the medical condition, and the availability of data and technological resources. Typically, the adoption of “smart medicine” is seen in well-equipped healthcare settings where a multidisciplinary team of experts collaborates to integrate these advanced technologies into patient care, guided by evidence-based protocols and tailored to meet the unique needs and preferences of each patient.

A fundamental criterion in this decision-making process is the demonstrated benefit that these technologies can bring in improving patient outcomes, guiding clinicians to opt for “smart medicine” in scenarios where it can significantly enhance the precision, timeliness, and effectiveness of healthcare delivery.

When and why is genetic testing performed in the course of medical treatment?

Genetic testing stands as a powerful tool in modern medicine, undertaken at various junctures in the course of medical treatment for a plethora of reasons. It can be performed to identify inherited predispositions to certain diseases, to aid in the diagnosis of genetic disorders, and to help customize treatment plans, especially in the field of oncology where it assists in identifying the most effective targeted therapies based on the genetic makeup of the tumor.

Furthermore, genetic testing is utilized in prenatal settings to identify any genetic abnormalities in the fetus, and in newborn screening programs to detect genetic disorders early in life, facilitating timely interventions.

Oncology (Cancer) Treatment in Turkey

Turkey has been emerging as a prominent destination in the field of healthcare and, notably, in oncology treatment. The country has invested substantially in equipping its hospitals with state-of-the-art technology and infrastructure to provide comprehensive cancer care services. Turkish hospitals and cancer centers are known for offering a multidisciplinary approach in cancer treatment, bringing together teams of skilled specialists who work in unison to devise individualized treatment plans for patients.

In addition, Turkey keeps abreast with the latest advancements in cancer treatment, providing modern therapeutic options such as targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and personalized medicine, enhancing the prospects of successful outcomes. These efforts are complemented by Turkey’s commitment to adhering to international standards of healthcare, with many hospitals in the country being accredited by globally recognized institutions, a testimony to the high-quality services they offer.

Furthermore, Turkey has embraced the concept of medical tourism, facilitating a smooth and welcoming experience for international patients, with services such as language assistance and seamless coordination across different stages of treatment, manifesting a holistic approach that goes beyond just medical care, to foster a nurturing and supportive environment for patients and their families.

Top Cities in Turkey for Oncology Treatment & Services

Turkey boasts several cities that are hubs for oncology treatment and services, offering an amalgamation of high-quality healthcare and rich cultural experiences. Istanbul stands at the forefront, housing a plethora of reputed hospitals equipped with cutting-edge technology and a pool of experienced oncologists who bring expertise from around the world. The city’s strategic location, straddling two continents, adds to its appeal, blending a rich historical tapestry with modern amenities, offering patients not just medical care but a holistic healing environment.

Ankara, the capital city, follows suit with a robust healthcare infrastructure, fostering medical excellence through research and education, with several universities and research institutions contributing to the advancements in cancer care. Moreover, the city of Izmir offers a serene coastal setting, complemented by healthcare facilities that provide comprehensive cancer care services, standing as a testament to Turkey’s commitment to offering diverse geographical and cultural settings to suit the preferences of different individuals seeking cancer treatment in the country.

Top Oncology Clinics, Hospitals & Doctors in Turkey, Istanbul

Istanbul, as the heartbeat of Turkey, not only resonates with historical and cultural richness but has also evolved as a leading hub in the domain of healthcare. Its strategic geopolitical location, combined with a forward-leaning approach to medicine, has put Istanbul on the global map as a sought-after destination for oncology treatment. Let’s delve into some of the top-notch oncology centers in this vibrant city.

American Hospital MD Anderson Radiation Oncology Center

An epitome of excellence in cancer care, the American Hospital MD Anderson Radiation Oncology Center represents a fusion of Turkish healthcare expertise with international standards. The collaboration with MD Anderson, one of the world’s premier cancer treatment centers, ensures that patients receive care that is both cutting-edge and compassionate.

The facility is furnished with state-of-the-art technology, facilitating precise radiation therapies tailored to individual patient needs. A multidisciplinary team of seasoned professionals works tirelessly, ensuring that each treatment plan is optimized for the best possible outcomes. The center’s commitment to integrating the latest research findings into clinical practice ensures that patients have access to the most current treatment options.

Florence Nightingale Cancer Center – Istanbul

Named after the pioneering nurse who transformed the landscape of healthcare, the Florence Nightingale Cancer Center in Istanbul stands as a beacon of hope for those battling cancer. The center offers a comprehensive suite of services, from diagnosis to treatment and post-treatment care. Its robust team of specialists collaborates to ensure a holistic approach, focusing not just on treating the disease but also on enhancing the overall quality of life for the patients.

The facility boasts some of the most advanced diagnostic tools, ensuring timely and accurate detection, which is crucial for effective cancer management. Furthermore, its association with international research networks facilitates access to the latest therapeutic protocols, offering patients the best fighting chance against the disease.

Prof. Dr. Ugur Coskun  Ankara

In the heart of Turkey’s capital, Ankara, Prof. Dr. Ugur Coskun stands as a pillar in the medical community, known for his expertise and years of experience in the field of oncology. His meticulous approach to patient care and deep understanding of cancer dynamics make him a sought-after professional in the cancer treatment landscape.

Patients under the care of Prof. Dr. Ugur Coskun can expect a detailed consultation process where individual health histories are considered to create a bespoke treatment plan, which aims to offer the best possible outcomes in each unique case.

Hacettepe University Oncology Hospital  Ankara

Ankara is also home to the reputable Hacettepe University Oncology Hospital, a medical facility grounded in research and dedicated to providing comprehensive cancer care. Being an integral part of a university that holds a rich history of medical education and research, the hospital embodies a spirit of innovation, constantly updating its approach to cancer treatment with the latest advancements in the field.

The hospital houses a multidisciplinary team of experts who collaborate to offer an integrated treatment plan, ensuring that patients receive holistic care that considers all aspects of their well-being. Furthermore, the facility is equipped with modern technology, enhancing its capability to offer treatments that are both effective and grounded in the latest scientific research.

Get a Free Quote / Book Your Oncology treatment

In an endeavor to make the process of seeking medical assistance more streamlined and patient-friendly, several platforms offer services where individuals can get a free quote for their oncology treatments. These platforms often collaborate with top hospitals and doctors, providing a gateway to quality healthcare services. Prospective patients can explore different treatment options and make an informed decision based on the quotes and information provided.

Oncology Treatment Request Form

Adding to the convenience is the introduction of the Oncology Treatment Request Form, a hassle-free way to initiate the journey towards healing. This feature allows patients to input all necessary details and medical histories in a structured format, facilitating a smooth coordination process with the healthcare providers. It not only expedites the administrative process but also helps in crafting a treatment plan that is most aligned with the patient’s medical needs and preferences, thus paving the way for a personalized healthcare experience.

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