Cancer staging helps your doctor understand whether or not your cancer has spread locally and study its aggressiveness. This information helps them come up with the best treatment plan for you. The origin and spread of cancer are expressed in four stages – stage 1 to stage 4.
What do different stages of cancer mean?
Stage 1 cancer means early-stage cancer. Based on the levels, cancer would be in more advanced stages between 2, 3 and 4. Usually, stage 4 cancer means the cancer has spread to other organs in the body, and it is also called metastatic cancer. This kind of staging was done a long time ago before the advent of molecular imaging and other advanced diagnostic tools.
Today, with advanced diagnostic procedures in place, we are able to recognise several variations of stage 4 cancers. In recent years, patients with stage 4 cancers are having promising prognostics even if the cancer in one organ has spread to another. For example, patients with breast cancer that has spread to their bones can still live for many years.
Each case is different, and stage 4 cancers are very much treatable in many cases. In every cancer case, it is important for us to understand where the cancer is originating, the areas where it has spread, the degree at which the organ-function is disrupted and the overall condition of the patient. Based on this information, the prognosis can be predicted.
Patients should always have a detailed discussion with the experts and multidisciplinary team for a clear understanding of their condition, its type and the suitable treatment plan.
Cancer is a complex disease and receiving the right treatment, the first time is of paramount importance. At BHIO, cancer cases are treated with a multimodal approach. Today, with the availability of advanced diagnostic procedures, genomics and cutting-edge treatment protocols, high-level precision can be achieved both in diagnosis and therapy.
Initially, using testing procedures like tissue diagnosis, imaging and tests for biomarkers, various factors like the type of cancer, its genetic make-up, bio-marker levels, its stage, the site of origin, aggressiveness, its spread and the overall condition of the patient are analysed.
Based on this information, a multidisciplinary team consisting of a pathologist, radiologist, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist collectively decide on the best treatment plan possible for the patient along with the estimation of long-term prognosis. Treatment could be given in the form of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy or other treatment modalities.
Cancer treatment is a team effort of the patient, family members, specialists and the paramedics. At BHIO, all treatments are planned with a goal to achieve a positive clinical outcome and provide a good quality of life for our patients.
A tumour diagnosis report will have information about the current status of your condition. The commonly used diagnostic procedures include MRI, genomic testing, blood test, X-ray, PET-CT, biopsy, etc.
The diagnosis of the tumour based on the above details will help the expert team to come up with the right treatment recommendation and have a discussion on the possible side effects along with an estimation of the long-term prognosis.
A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming for many; however, the patients must understand that cancer is a treatable condition if detected early.
If you are diagnosed with cancer, you must ask the following questions to your doctor for a better understanding of your condition:
- Where is the origin of the tumour?
- Has the tumour spread anywhere?
- What does my diagnostic report show?
- What is the best treatment plan for my condition, and what would its goal be?
- What would be the response to this treatment plan?
- Will the treatment be painful?
- What is my long-term prognosis?
- What are the possible side effects of this treatment?
- What effect will the treatment have on my quality of life?
- How can I keep myself healthy during the treatment?
- What are the precautions that I should be taking?
- Is it hereditary? Will my kids get affected?
- How will this treatment affect my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?
- Can I have a normal diet? Is there any special diet that I should be on?
- Do I or my family need psychological counselling?
Once the cancer is diagnosed, make sure to get all the information before proceeding with the treatment.
At BHIO, quality cancer care is given utmost importance. Our diagnostic practices come with high degree precision. We have a multidisciplinary team (MDT) of skilled oncologists, who together discuss each cancer case, weigh the pros and cons of each treatment method and eventually come up with the best treatment plan for every patient we care for.
We are empowered with the expertise of eminent oncologists and cutting-edge technology that allow us to deliver the right treatment, the first time.
My radiation therapy starts next week. What should I expect, and what can I do to decrease the fatigue?
Before the treatment, your expert team will lay out all the necessary information about the treatment, possible side effects, after-care practices and follow-ups.
For any treatment-related information, you must always discuss with your team of experts. Each patient reacts to the disease and the treatment differently, and therefore, the side effects also vary from patient to patient.
If you are experiencing any side effects, you can get in touch with your team of experts, who will help you manage them effectively.
My chemotherapy or immunotherapy or biotherapy session is scheduled for next week. How should I be prepared for it?
Chemotherapy is one of the effective treatment modalities used in cancer care. In the past, patients feared chemotherapy due to its complexity. But today, the role of chemotherapy in cancer treatment has reduced significantly. With the advent of advanced treatment modalities like immunotherapy, biotherapy and targeted therapy that are associated with fewer side effects, patients are exhibiting better tolerance towards the treatment. The patients are also able to lead an active life throughout the course of the treatment.
Usually, patients tend to talk to random people or family members regarding the treatment and form opinions based on those conversations. However, we do not encourage this as each case, just like each patient, is unique.
A lot of the factors pertaining to the treatment and side effects also depend on the stage of the disease and each patient’s genetic make-up, and therefore, the treatment decisions and precautions are to be taken on a case-to-case basis. Hence, the patients must have a detailed discussion about their treatment plan with the expert team for a better understanding.
My cancer surgery is scheduled for next week. How should I be prepared for the procedure?
The surgery team will lay out all the necessary information about the procedure when the treatment plan is discussed. If you have any queries or doubts regarding the procedure, you can share them with your expert team without any hesitation.
At BHIO, all treatment plans are devised with a special focus on the quality of life of the patients during and after the treatment. Following the surgery, written instructions on the after-care practices will be given to the patients and their caregivers, which are to be strictly followed.
Cancer is a heterogeneous disease. Each individual cancer possesses different biological characteristics, and this holds good for the cancers of the same type too. If two patients are diagnosed with breast cancer, it does not necessarily mean that their cancers are the same, or they can be treated successfully with the same treatment plan. These circumstances call for the need of personalised medicine.
At BHIO, we practice value-based and precision medicine, which helps us treat each cancer case with a unique treatment plan.
Initially, for each cancer case, we conduct a detailed study on the diagnostic parameters such as pathology results, imaging results, genetic make-up, hormone receptor status, prognostic factors, etc. After the thorough assessment of the diagnostic information and the overall condition of the patient, the expert team devises a personalised treatment plan. This treatment plan could involve a single treatment modality, such as surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, biotherapy and radiotherapy or a combination of multiple modalities.
With each case, we strive to pursue positive clinical outcomes and meet the global standards of cancer care. This has been substantiated by the Harvard Business Review case study, which has reported that our clinical outcomes are on par with that of some of the finest cancer centres around the world.
Before starting any treatment, the patients and their family members should focus on three things - the right treatment, the possible financial burden and knowing if the clinical outcome at the said institute is as per the global standards.
According to the HBR study, BHIO offers value-based medicine to its patients. Despite the treatment costs being far less than that at several reputed cancer centres around the world, BHIO delivers quality healthcare without compromising the clinical outcomes.
In a few circumstances, financial difficulties force patients to compromise with their treatment. However, this compromise may lead to recurrence, which may cause serious complications and demand an even more expensive treatment plan. Therefore, we encourage our patients to opt for insurance, which helps them seamlessly access necessary treatments.
At BHIO, patients can discuss their financial constraints with their expert team and Medico-Social Workers (MSWs), who can put them in touch with the BHIO Foundation - a not-for-profit initiative that provides monetary assistance to financially-marginalised patients.
Yes, our expert team recommends genetic testing and counselling for every cancer patient.
It is advised that the family members undergo genetic testing and counselling too, as genetic mutations affect the family members as well. For example, in breast cancer cases, genetic testing helps in identifying the markers and accordingly facilitate proper counselling to the family members. This eventually helps in controlling or preventing the disease in certain instances.
BHIO houses a large team of skilled genetic experts who are well-versed in genetic testing and counselling. This team will help you understand the genetics of your condition, which is crucial for you to make an informed decision about your treatment.
Several studies have shown that stress can play a huge role in cancer management.
Patients, who seek professional psychological assistance, have better ability to cope with the illness, hold a positive outlook throughout treatment, exhibit better tolerance to the treatment, experience an overall improved quality of life and most importantly, report successful clinical outcomes. Therefore, yes, stress and psychological counselling play a significant role in cancer care.
BHIO houses a very unique psycho-oncology division that focuses on meeting the emotional needs of the cancer patients and their caregivers and facilitating a seamless cancer journey for them. We strongly recommend psycho-oncology counselling for all our patients as it positively impacts their long-term outcome.
Fear, anxiety and panic attacks following a cancer diagnosis are completely normal. What one must know is that a lot of cancer patients are leading a normal life today. At times, talking to someone who’s been where you are right now helps you get a hold of reality. Pink Hope Cancer Support Group is a special support system at BHIO, whose members are the survivors of various types of cancer. A casual conversation with them might inspire you, strengthen you, infuse positivity and hope and boost your overall morale. Meetings can happen via video conference or in-person.
Our best advice to our patients is to take the right treatment, overcome fear and have an overall positive outlook towards life – all of which promote a normal life after the treatment.
Your expert team will give you a schedule of your treatment and tests to be done to check the efficacy of the treatment given.
Normally, your expert team may suggest tests such as blood tests, biomarker testing and PET scan depending on the type and stage of cancer you were diagnosed with and the type of treatment given.
Along with these tests, follow-up meetings will be scheduled once every few months, during which detailed discussions happen on your response to the treatment and long-term prognosis.
To achieve the best benefit of your cancer treatment, you should avoid any kind of delays and disruptions in your chemotherapy dose and timing.
Since each cancer case is different, we strongly recommend our patients to be in touch with the expert team and the MSWs throughout the treatment. Communication between the patient and the expert team is very much important. We encourage our patients to promptly discuss if there are any apprehensions and concerns regarding the treatment, which will be addressed immediately.
Once the cancer treatment is completed, the expert team will be sharing a detailed report on the follow-up care and follow-up tests with the patients, along with the information on possible side effects.
In recent years, with the advent of precision therapy, the incidence of side effects is far less compared to what was seen decades ago. Today, most treatments are given on an outpatient basis. There are no long-term adverse effects too.
We’ve had teachers, farmers, tech professionals, health professionals and business professionals get back to their normal lives without any difficulties, and this is something we expect from every cancer patient we treat.
In case the patients are experiencing any side effects, it has to be discussed with the expert team, who will be immediately providing necessary assistance.
Cancer patients with a positive approach towards the disease require very little help or support. The patient-centric and customised treatment plans that BHIO allow patients to have a normal life throughout the course of the treatment.
We encourage counselling and frequent interactions with the family members and Pink Hope Support Group, so that the overall quality of life of the patients is not affected and patients can continue to be productive at home, work and in the society at large.
Usually, there will be no diet restrictions. We recommend you to have healthy balanced meals. You can also talk to our dieticians who are specialised in oncology and can offer high-quality, comprehensive diet plans that can support your overall wellbeing.
Frequently Asked Questions – Pertaining to Covid-19
There is no hard evidence to say that cancer patients are more likely to get sick from COVID-19. Also, there is no sufficient data to suggest that COVID-19 causes higher mortality among cancer patients.
At BHIO, we have managed COVID-19 patients without any problems, and a majority of our patients have recovered.
Your treating oncologist at BHIO is the best person to reach out to, in case you have any questions about your treatment and possible COVID-19 infection.
2. Should I keep my follow-up appointments, or is it better to avoid the hospital for the time being?
Yes, we encourage our patients to keep their follow-up appointments. We take stringent measures at BHIO to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our patients and health workers.
We have also facilitated virtual consultations to ease the follow-up care for our patients.
Kindly get in touch with your expert team at BHIO for proper guidance on your follow-up consultations.
3. Will my cancer treatment be affected because of coronavirus restrictions? Should I discontinue my treatment for the time being?
No, your cancer treatment will not be affected due to coronavirus restrictions. However, you are requested to follow the necessary precautionary measures laid by the health ministry while visiting us for your cancer treatment.
Discontinuing the cancer treatment is not an option. Completing the course of treatment without disruption is crucial to prevent collateral damage of delayed cancer treatment.
Kindly talk to your medical team who will guide you with the necessary precautions that are to be taken during the treatment.
If you test positive for COVID-19 during your cancer treatment, immediately talk to your treating oncologist. Make sure he puts you on the necessary treatment.
Majority of times, cancer treatment can continue without any problems. However, there are exceptions.
Before taking any decision, it is always better to discuss with your medical team who will help you make the right call.