Encyclopedia of cancer

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The testicles are palpated to identify any lumps, thickening, or differences in the size, weight, and firmness. If the doctor detects an abnormality on physical examination, or the patient has some symptom that could be indicative of cancer, the doctor may order diagnostic tests.


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Laboratory studies of sputum sputum cytology , blood, urine, and stool can detect abnormalities that may indicate cancer. Sputum cytology is a test where the phlegm that is coughed up from the lungs is microscopically examined. It is often used to detect lung cancer. A blood test for cancer is easy to perform, usually inexpensive and risk-free.

Blood tests can be either specific or nonspecific.

Often times, in certain cancers, the cancer cells release particular proteins called tumor markers and blood tests can be used to detect the presence of these tumor markers. However, with a few exceptions, tumor markers are not used for routine screening of cancers, because several noncancerous conditions also produce positive results. Blood tests are generally more useful in monitoring the effectiveness of the treatment, or in following the course of the disease and detecting recurrent disease.

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Encyclopedia of Cancer

Imaging tests such as computed tomography scans CT scans , magnetic resonance imaging MRI , ultra-sound, and fiberoptic scope examinations help doctors determine the location of the tumor even if it is deep within the body. Conventional x rays are often used for initial evaluation, because they are relatively cheap, painless, and easily accessible. In order to increase the information obtained from a conventional x ray, air or a dye such as barium or iodine may be used as a contrast medium to outline or highlight parts of the body. The most definitive diagnostic test is the biopsy, wherein a piece of tissue is surgically removed for microscope examination.

Besides confirming a cancer, the biopsy also provides information about the type of cancer, the stage it has reached, the aggressiveness of the cancer, and the extent of its spread. Since a biopsy provides the most accurate analysis, it is considered the gold standard of diagnostic tests. Screening examinations, conducted regularly by healthcare professionals, can result in the detection of cancers of the breast, colon, rectum, cervix, prostate, testes, tongue, mouth, and skin at early stages, when treatment is more likely to be successful.

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Some of the routine screening tests recommended by the ACS are sigmoidoscopy for colorectal cancer , mammography for breast cancer , pap smear for cervical cancer , and the PSA test for prostate cancer. Self-examinations for cancers of the breast, testes, mouth, and skin can also help in detecting the tumors before the symptoms become serious.

Diagnosis in alternative treatment often relies on conventional diagnostic tools for determining the type and stage of cancer, but will supplement those tools with diagnostic techniques that strive to evaluate the overall health of a person, in order to treat a person holistically. For instance, Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine place high priorities during diagnosis on the patient's emotional and psychological history, as well as considerations like lifestyle, relationships, and the degree of social and spiritual support, in order to have insight into the cause and proper treatment of a particular cancer.

These alternative practices also have highly developed diagnostic techniques for the body, including pulse diagnosis ; methods of analyzing the tongue, eyes, skin, hair, and fingernails; palpating and finding problems in the organs and abdomen; and listening to the breath for clues to the internal environment. There are a multitude of alternative treatments available to help a person with cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments are some of the most painful and toxic of conventional treatments, and often have unpredictable results. As a rule, alternative treatments are less invasive, nontoxic, and have minimal side effects.

Encyclopedia of Cancer - Databases - The University of Auckland Library

When used as adjuncts to conventional treatment, some alternative treatments have been shown to decrease pain and side effects, aid in the recovery process, and improve the quality of life of cancer patients. Alternative treatment of cancer is a complicated arena and choosing one from the many can seem a difficult task, as can choosing an alternative practitioner. Patients should consult as many trained health practitioners as feasible when choosing alternative therapies.

If patients are willing to ask questions and thoroughly re-search their options, they can increase their chances of getting the best possible alternative support for the difficult task of treating cancer. When choosing alternative treatment, individuals should evaluate practitioners, therapies, and services delivered by clinics or practitioners, as well as the extent of documentation and published literature regarding these concerns. When looking for practitioners, patients should evaluate their training and credentials and their reputations in the healing community.

Referrals from other patients should be requested. Furthermore, they should seek practitioners who are knowledgeable and familiar with a broad spectrum of options of treating cancer, including those used by conventional medicine, and who are willing to work in conjunction with conventional doctors if the patient and treatment requires it. Conversely, if patients choose a physician who employs and recommends conventional, allopathic methods, that physician should be willing to communicate with patients, as well as communicate with an alternate provider.

Another major consideration when choosing a practitioner is whether he or she seems trustworthy, ethical, and compassionate. Patients should also evaluate the particular therapy offered by a practitioner or clinic. They should find out exactly how the therapy works and the principles behind it; whether it is harmless or potentially damaging, and the positive benefits it offers; what literature and scientific studies exist for the therapy; and what other patients say about the treatment.

Finally, patients should evaluate the quality of service that the practitioner or clinic offers. Cost, reputation, quality of support personnel, and attention to individual needs are important considerations when evaluating the service dimension of a treatment. Alternative medicine generally views cancer as a holistic problem.


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That is, cancer represents a problem with the body's overall health and immunity. As such, treatment is holistic as well, striving to strengthen and heal the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of patients. Alternative cancer treatments may emphasize different basic approaches, which include traditional medicines, psychological approaches, nutritional and dietary approaches, physical approaches, integrated approaches, and experimental programs.

Traditional Chinese medicine uses acupuncture, acupressure massage, herbal remedies, and movement therapies like t'ai chi and qigong to treat cancer. Traditional Chinese herbal remedies have already contributed a significant number of anticancer drugs, as studies have shown their anti-cancer properties and immune stimulants.

A report noted that the ancient compound artemisinin worm-wood appears surprisingly effective in targeting certain cancer cells and helping to destroy them. The therapy is much less expensive than many traditional options, but further study was underway. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce some tumors and significantly reduce pain and improve immune system activity.

Ayurvedic medicine utilizes detoxification , herbal remedies, massage, exercise, yoga , breathing techniques, and meditation as part of its cancer treatment. Panchakarma is an extensive detoxification and strengthening program that is recommended for cancer sufferers and those undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.

Panchakarma uses fasting , special vegetarian diets , enemas, massage, herbal medicines, and other techniques to rid the body of excess toxins that are believed to contribute to chronic diseases like cancer, and to strengthen the immune system. Ayurvedic herbs are also being demonstrated to have significant anticancer properties.

Naturopathy and homeopathy are traditional Western healing systems using herbal medicines and other techniques to strengthen the immune system and reduce the pain of cancer treatment. Western herbalism is also beginning to compile studies of many herbs that have anticancer and immune strengthening properties. Alternative treatments that seek to help patients with the mental and spiritual challenges that cancer poses include psychotherapy , support groups, guided imagery , meditation, biofeedback , and hypnosis.

Psychological approaches work with the idea that the mind and emotions can profoundly influence the health of the body and diseases like cancer. Many studies have acknowledged that mind and emotions play a key role in cancer and immune functioning, and psychological approaches are being used by many conventional programs, including Harvard Medical School. A new field of academic medicine called psychoneuroimmunology has begun that studies the interactions between mental states and immune response.

Studies have shown that patients who approach their cancer with positive attitudes and peaceful acceptance have higher survival rates than those patients who react with negative emotions, like depression , cynicism, or helplessness.

The Gale Encyclopedia Of Cancer A Guide To Cancer And Its Treatments Gale Encyclopedia of Cancer 2 V

Alternative treatments use psychological approaches to help patients overcome the mental and emotional barriers to healing. Physical approaches to cancer include exercise; massage therapies; movement therapies like yoga, t'ai chi and qigong; breathing techniques; and relaxation techniques. These therapies strive to increase immune system response, promote relaxation and stress reduction, and reduce side effects of conventional treatments such as pain, nausea , weakness, and physical immobility.

Diet is now recognized by scientists to play a major role in reducing the risk of some cancers. Many nutritionists also state that cancer patients have heightened needs for diets free of toxic chemicals and full of cancer-fighting nutrients. Diet and nutrition can improve both a cancer patient's chances for recovery and quality of life during treatment. In laboratory studies, vitamins such as A, C, and E, as well as compounds such as isothiocyanates and dithiolthiones found in broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, and the antioxidant beta-carotene found in carrots, have been shown to protect against cancer.

Additionally, bioflavonoids and lycophene found in green tea help in the prevention of cancer. Dietary approaches for cancer include vegetarianism , raw food diets, macrobiotics, the Gerson diet, and the Livingston-Wheeler nutritional program, discussed below. Cancer diets generally emphasize fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, and restrict intake of fat, meat, dairy products, sugar, processed foods, and other foods believed to tax cancer patients. Nutritional approaches to cancer include antioxidant and vitamin supplementation and the use of numerous herbal extracts.

There are many herbs that have been shown to have anticancer, immune enhancing, and symptom reducing properties, and patients are recommended to consult competent herbalists for herbal support. Keith Block is a conventional physician and oncologist who is integrating many alternative practices into his cancer treatment center affiliated with the Chicago Medical School in Illinois. His program seeks to provide individualized cancer treatment using conventional therapies while integrating alternative healing techniques. Block advocates a special diet based on vegetarianism and macrobiotics , exercise, psychological support, and herbal and nutritional supplements.

Block's program has received acclaim for both treatment success and satisfaction of patients. Antineoplaston therapy was developed by Stanislaw Burzynski, a Polish physician who began practicing in Houston , Texas.

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Burzynski has isolated a chemical, deficient in those with cancer, which he believes stops cancer growth, and his treatment has shown some promise. Joseph Gold, the director of the Syracuse Cancer Research Institute, discovered that the chemical hydrazine sulfate has many positive effects in cancer patients, including stopping weight loss, shrinking tumors, and increasing survival rates. The Livingston therapy was developed by the late Dr. Virginia Livingston, an American physician.

She asserted that cancer is caused by certain bacteria that she claimed are present in all tumors.