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What is Cancer?

Cancer develops when abnormal cells in our body begin to cluster and spread. There are actually more than 100 types of cancer that affect different parts of the body and/or blood. The cause of cancer is still unknown, but there are certain factors that increase the risk of cancer, including genetics, prolonged radiation exposure and smoking.

What are the signs and symptoms of cancer?

The signs and symptoms of cancer vary depending on the type and location of cancer. In some instances, there are no noticeable signs until the cancer has grown large enough to be detected; however, some signs and symptoms include:

  • Back pain

  • Changes in the skin

  • Changes in bowel habits and bladder function

  • Dizziness

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • Long lasting sores

  • Noticeable lumps that are felt through the skin (i.e. in breast, testicle, lymph nodes, etc.)

  • Persistent headaches

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Jaundice (yellow-looking eyes and skin)

These are just some of symptoms of cancer. It is important to seek a medical evaluation if you notice any of the above signs and symptoms. Early detection is the key to treating any type of cancer.

What is an oncologist?

An oncologist is a physician who focuses on the diagnoses and treatment of cancerous tumors. He or she has graduated from an accredited medical school and completed specialty training as an oncologist and/or hematologist, as well as additional sub-specialty training. Within the field of oncology, there are several sub-specialties, including gynecological oncology, medical oncology and pediatric oncology just to name a few.

How will chemotherapy work?

Whether delivered orally in pill form or through IV infusion or injections, chemotherapy has one purpose – to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may also be used in conjunction with other cancer treatments such as radiation therapy and surgery.

What effects can I expect from chemotherapy?

There are certain side effects that come along with chemotherapy, including hair loss, low red and white blood cell counts, nausea and vomiting just to name a few. We will work with you personally to help manage the side effects of chemotherapy.

Will I lose my hair?

Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy due to how the drug attacks fast growing cells. So, while chemotherapy destroys cancer cells, it unfortunately can also affect surrounding healthy cells as well, like hair follicles. The amount of hair you will lose will depend on the type and dosage of the drug given to you based on the type and stage of your cancer.

How long will my treatment last? Treatment time will vary depending on the type and stage of cancer you have. Your oncologist will work with you individually to develop a personalized treatment plan catered to your specific needs, including an estimated time frame for treatment.

Will my insurance cover my cancer treatment?

Insurance coverage varies, but generally most standard insurance policies (including Medicare) cover at least a portion of treatment. We recommend you check with your insurance to determine your coverage. Also, it is important to note that if changing coverage in the middle of your treatment, there may be special terms covering pre-existing conditions. SHOA has financial counselors that can work with you to ensure you are getting the treatment that you need.


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