A cancer diagnosis can be devastating. It can affect every part of you. That is why we strongly believe in treating you as a whole person—body, mind and spirit. We are here to provide you with complete cancer care.
Our state-of-the-art technologies and therapies enable our talented and caring oncologists, physicists, radiation therapists, surgeons, oncology nurses and staff members to provide you with the individualized cancer care needed to target and treat your cancer.
The words engraved above Sacred Heart Hospital’s main entrance say it all—there is hope here. We are here to give you our best. To treat your cancer with every technological advancement at our disposal. To answer every question you have and to provide you and your family with all the support you need.
Sacred Heart Hospital - Cancer Care FAQ
Q: What is cancer?
A: Every day, without our even being aware of it, the cells that make up our body are growing, dividing and/or producing more cells as needed in order to keep us healthy. But sometimes, this process goes haywire; certain cells lose their normal control mechanism and start growing out of control. This is what happens with cancer.
Q: What causes Cancer?
A: In many cases, the exact cause of the cancer is unknown. However, we do know that there are some things that can increase the risk of different types of cancer. Among the things that can affect a person's risk of developing cancer, according to the American Cancer Society are:
• Family and personal medical history can affect your risk.
• Exposure to carcinogens in the environment, such as chemicals or radiation, can increase your risk. A carcinogen is a substance that can cause cancer. Some people are more susceptible to carcinogens than others.
• Lifestyle, including such factors as diet, exercise, and whether or not you smoke, also impacts your risk.
In addition, cancer can be more likely to develop when the immune system isn't functioning properly.
Q: Is Cancer a preventable Disease?
A: There are more than a hundred different types of cancers, with many different potential causes. And since the risk of developing cancer also depends on a person's personal and family history, there's really no sure way to eliminate cancer risk entirely. But research shows that certain risk factors increase the chance that a person will develop cancer. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) says these are the most common risk factors for cancer:
• growing older
• ionizing radiation
• certain chemicals and other substances
• some viruses and bacteria, including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and sexually transmitted viruses such as HPV. NCI says Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium that can cause stomach ulcers, has also been linked to stomach cancer.
• certain hormones
• family history of cancer
• poor diet, lack of physical activity, or being overweight
Many of these risk factors can be avoided. Others, such as family history, cannot be avoided. People can help protect themselves by staying away from known risk factors whenever possible.
Q: How is Cancer detected?
A: The American Cancer Society says many forms of cancer are treated most successfully when caught early. This is why regular screenings, such as Pap tests, mammograms, PSA tests, etc., are so important.
If a screening produces a suspicious result, or if a doctor suspects cancer for some other reason, additional tests can be done, for example, blood or urine tests or imaging scans.
However, for most cancers, the way to make a definitive diagnosis is with a biopsy. Biopsy is the removal of cells or tissues for examination by a specialist physician called a pathologist. The pathologist may study the tissue under a microscope or perform other tests on the cells or tissue. Examination of suspicious cells through a biopsy helps the doctor determine if the cells are malignant (cancerous) or benign.
If cancer is present, a doctor must determine what type of cancer it is, how fast it is growing, and whether or not it has invaded nearby healthy tissue or spread to other parts of the body. This helps the doctor determine at what stage the cancer is, and how best to treat it.
Staging is the term used to describe the extent or severity of an individual's cancer. A cancer's stage depends on different factors, including its location, its size, whether lymph nodes have been affected and whether or not the cancer has spread.
NCI says different tests can be used to help determine a cancer's stage. These include blood and urine tests; imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, MRI, PET and ultrasound; pathology reports from the biopsy; and surgical reports. Knowing a cancer's stage helps to determine the best way to treat it.
Q: How is cancer treated?
Surgery: Surgery can be used in the diagnosis and staging of cancer. Surgery can also be preventive, for example, when it's used to remove an organ or tissue that may be pre-cancerous or likely to develop cancer at a later time. And surgery is also used as primary treatment for cancerous tumors. The success of surgery, as with other treatments, can depend on how early the cancer is caught, which is why cancer screenings and early detection have such life-saving potential.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may also be used to destroy any cancerous cells that remain in the body after surgery, as well as to relieve symptoms or control tumor growth.
Radiation therapy: Whereas chemotherapy affects the entire body, radiation therapy is a local therapy, meaning that it affects cells primarily in the treated area. Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, involves the use of penetrating beams of particles such as x-rays to kill cells that divide rapidly. New techniques let physicians accurately pinpoint the location of a tumor, and thus deliver greater amounts of radiation to the tumor while minimizing the dose to the healthy tissue that surrounds it. Radiation can also be used after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that remain in the treated area. Radiation may also be administered in combination with chemotherapy.
Biological therapy: Biological therapy, also called immunotherapy, uses the body's immune system to fight cancer.In a healthy body, the immune system can be capable of finding and fighting cancer cells. NCI says biological therapies are used to repair, stimulate or enhance the immune system's natural anticancer function.
Hormonal therapy: Hormonal therapy can also be used for certain cancers. For example, estrogen promotes the growth of about two thirds of breast cancers, according to ACS. Because of this, blocking the effect of estrogen or lowering estrogen levels is used to treat some types of breast cancer. Targeted therapy: Targeted cancer therapies use drugs that block the growth and spread of cancer. NCI says targeted cancer therapies interfere with cancer cell growth and division in different ways and at different points during the development, growth and spread of cancer. Many of these therapies focus on proteins that are involved in the signals cells use to communicate with each other. By blocking the signals that tell cancer cells to grow and divide uncontrollably, targeted cancer therapies can help to stop the growth and division of cancer cells. Because they focus on targeted molecules, NCI says targeted cancer therapies may be more effective, as well as less harmful to normal cells.
Lasers and photodynamic therapy: Photodynamic therapy (PDT) combines a drug with a certain type of light. When the drug, called a photosensitizer, is exposed to a specific wavelength of light, it produces a form of oxygen that kills nearby cancer cells. NCI says PDT is usually used to treat tumors on or just under the skin or on the lining of internal organs or cavities. The light used for PDT can come from a laser or other sources of light. NCI says laser light is a light of such high intensity and narrow beam that it can be used to do precise surgery to remove cancer or precancerous growths or to relieve symptoms of cancer.
For many cancer patients, a combination of treatments may be used. In all forms of cancer treatment, it's important for patients to report any severe side effects to their doctor. It's also important to maintain regular follow-up care and check-ups.
Q: Can I Inherit Breast Cancer?
A: You have a higher risk of developing breast cancer if a close relative has had the disease.